LAWRENCEVILLE -- The recession has touched people from all walks of life, and Gwinnett residents across the social spectrum told commissioners now is not the time to raise taxes.
Residents of the county's posh Sugarloaf Country Club said a proposed 2.28 mill increase to property taxes would be a burden too high for homeowners across the county.
"We are in trouble, just like the county," Lynn Agnes said during one of two public hearings held Monday about the proposal, due for a vote Dec. 1.
"Unemployment, it's an equalizer for people," said the Duluth woman who has been without a job for a year.
She said her neighborhood, known for affluence and home to CEOs and professional athletes, has dealt with seven suicides in the past year and 32 of the 42 houses sold in the subdivision this year were in foreclosure or short sale.
"They are in the same boat on a different scale," she said of a 20.8 percent tax increase's impact on homeowners across the county.
While some of the residents in attendance Monday said they supported increases to keep service levels intact, many agreed that they did not want cuts to public safety and the courts system.
But they added that public mistrust has been built because of the controversial decision to build a minor-league baseball stadium and land deals currently under investigation by a special grand jury.
"I think the consensus here is the commission has made some very poor choices in the past with our money," said Jan Tadeo, who lives in Lawrencevile. "I think the millage rate today is very unfair. To put the onus on property owners is very wrong."
Some people pleaded for the opening of fire stations and more police patrols on the streets, and others offered suggestions raising funds without hiking property taxes, including ideas to charge 50 cents for a library book, higher hotel taxes or a fee at dog parks.
Earlier this year, commissioners voted down a proposed 3 mill tax increase, but cuts in service brought another public outcry.
"The majority of people are like myself. We don't want to raise taxes," Chairman Charles Bannister said after the first meeting. "But they are the first ones to complain about cuts. ....I honestly believe we do need to maintain our public safety."
Others in the crowd were frustrated that a tax increase was back on the table.
"For months now I have heard almost all citizens complaining about this increase. Are you listening to us or what?" Nikolitsa Zehe of Buford said. "There are ways we can stop this increase and raise the money we need to pay for what is necessary."