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FRONT PAGE - NOVEMBER 24, 1999 - JEFFERSON, GA

NOTICE
Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, MainStreet Newspapers' printed editions will be printed on Tuesday, Nov. 23 instead of the regular Wednesday publication date. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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Celebrating Thanksgiving at JCES

Beth Bates (L) and Ashley Johnson joined their classmates in dressing as pilgrims Thursday to celebrate Thanksgiving a little early at Jackson County Elementary School. The girls are students in Tammy Standridge's kindergarten class. Photo by Jana Adams

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Two developers file lawsuits against BOC
BY ANGELA GARY
Two developers have filed lawsuits against the Jackson County Board of Commissioners over zoning denials.
Doug Elam of Buckhead Development filed a lawsuit against the county for refusing to approve his request for smaller lots in the Mulberry Plantation project on Hwy. 124.
Also in West Jackson, Millard Bowen of Simonton Road Partners has filed a lawsuit against the county over the denial of a request to rezone 123.66 acres on Wehunt Road from A-R to R-1 for a 119-lot subdivision.
Elam's original plans called for homes on one-half acre lots, but he asked to be allowed to place some homes on one-fourth acre lots. He said his main reason for asking for the change was to allow more homes to be placed around the golf course and the total homes would still be at 1,550.
Although the county planning commission recommended approval of the request, the BOC never took action on it.
Elam's lawsuit charges the BOC with discriminating against him in an "arbitrary and unreasonable manner." He asked the court to free the property of all zoning restrictions unless the county rezones the property in a "constitutional manner within a reasonable time."
Simonton Road Partners contends that its rezoning request is consistent with the county zoning ordinance. The planning commission had also recommended approval of the request, but it was denied by the BOC.
"The denial of the rezoning application does not allow the plaintiff a reasonable economical use of the property," the lawsuit reads. The lawsuit also points out that there was no opposition from surrounding property owners at the hearing.

Homeowners paying heavier share of local property taxes
Taxes from farms dropping as conservation use break grows
The Jackson County government will be more dependent this year on homeowners and less dependent on farms for its property tax income, according to the recently compiled property tax digest.
That shift is most apparent in the Jackson County School System where, for the first time, over 40 percent of its property tax income will come from residential and mobile homeowners.
The Jackson County property tax digest shows that 37.8 percent of the county's overall property tax income is generated from homeowners, up from 36 percent last year and 34.4 percent in 1995. Meanwhile, a growth in the conservation use tax break has lowered taxes paid from farms from 23.7 percent in 1995 to 18.5 percent in 1999. This year, one-third of the total land area in Jackson County is under the conservation use program, which values land for tax purposes far below market value in return for a promise from the landowner to not develop or sell the land for development.
Meanwhile, although the county has become a hotbed of industrial and commercial growth, the overall share of industrial and commercial property taxes has remained virtually the same over the last four years, growing only to 32 percent this year from 31 percent in 1995.
But while the county government has been affected by these shifts, the movement is most apparent in the county school's tax digest, which excludes the cities of Jefferson and Commerce. For 1999, 40.3 percent of the county school system's tax income will come from homeowners, up from 37 percent last year.
On the other end, the share of county school taxes paid by farm operations dropped from 27 percent last year to 24.7 percent this year.
The county school system also continues to suffer from a lack of a commercial and industrial tax base. Only 22 percent of the county school system's tax base comes from commercial or industrial property, 10 percent less than the overall county average.
JEFFERSON
While the county is seeing an overall shift in the property tax digest, the City of Jefferson is less affected due to only a small amount of farm operations and a huge tax base from industrial and commercial investments. In Jefferson, city homeowners make up only 25.2 percent of the tax base, down from 26 percent last year. Meanwhile, the share of taxes from industries and businesses grew from 62 percent last year to 65 percent in 1999. Only three percent of the city's property taxes come from farms, down from six percent last year.
HIGHLIGHTS
Other highlights from the tax digest are:
· The taxable value of industrial property declined in Jackson County in 1999, in large part due to a drop in fixed equipment values and a drop in inventory. That drop was somewhat offset by a drop in the freeport exemption claimed by industries.
· Commercial taxable property values grew by a huge 40 percent in 1999, for the first time topping the $100 million mark. That tax base in also important because most commercial properties also generate sales tax income for local governments.
· Homestead exemptions for homeowners climbed in 1999 by 55 percent taking $10.5 million off the tax books.

Fire district taxes up 17%
Fire income tops $795,000 for year
Jackson County's fire districts will garner over $795,150 in property tax income this year, up 17 percent over last year. Three fire districts, West Jackson, East Jackson and South Jackson, are increasing their millage rates while one district, Nicholson, is setting a lower rate. The remaining fire districts are keeping rates the same as in 1998.
Along with the three mill rate increases, a larger tax digest pushed up the tax income to the districts.
Fire district millage rates were approved by the Jackson County Board of Commissioners Thursday. All districts are required to submit a proposed rate and budget to the BOC, which has final authority to set the rates. All of the districts did submit a recommended millage rate, but only four of the 10 turned in a budget by the county deadline. The only districts to submit a budget were Arcade, Harrisburg, Plainview and Jackson Trail .
The largest fire district continued to be West Jackson, which will take in $190,400 in property taxes. The smallest district, Plainview, will take in only $30,300.

Jefferson approves 5% employee raise
BY ANGELA GARY
All Jefferson employees will be getting a five percent raise next year thanks to a plea from police chief Darren Glenn.
Glenn went before the Jefferson City Council Thursday night, accompanied by off-duty uniformed officers, to ask for more money in next year's budget for police officers. The council agreed to give all employees a five percent raise on their anniversary date with the city.
The council also agreed to a request to increase the starting pay of new officers hired beginning Jan. 1. The starting pay of $9.84 per hour will be raised by five percent to $10.34 an hour. The five percent increase for starting salaries is also for all city positions.
The council also agreed to look into merit raises for 2001. Glenn said he supports such a measure and believes the yearly evaluations by department heads would give employees an incentive to do a better job.
Council members C.D. Kidd and "Bosie" Griffith said they agree with merit raises, but Marcia Moon said she does not. Moon said that if a person is not doing a good enough job to get a full raise they shouldn't have a job with the city.
OTHER BUSINESS
In other business, the council:
·agreed to amend a water bill for the Head Start facility due to a broken water pipe. The council agreed to take the average monthly bill for the facility and add $150 to it. The same thing will be done next month if the center receives another bill that is higher than usual due to the water leak. The pipe has been repaired.
·agreed to a request from Oak Ridge Landscaping Inc. to rezone 7.9 acres on the Winder Hwy. from R-3 to C-2.
·agreed to a bid of $890,081 of J&K Utilities for the west side sewer project. Engineer Jerry Hood of Precision Planning also gave an update on other water and sewer projects underway or planned by the city.
·agreed to provide $2,000 to Peace Place, a shelter for battered women and their children serving Banks, Barrow and Jackson counties. Pat Peterson spoke on the shelter which is expected to be in operation in an undisclosed location early next year.


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