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BOC, residents discuss Gwinnett's issues, concerns

SUWANEE -- While the questions and concerns ranged from property taxes to fire hydrants and garbage fees, the common theme throughout a town hall meeting with county commissioners was interest in Gwinnett's future.

"We all want the best we can have for the community," Board Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said more than once.

Commissioner John Heard also noted a soon-to-be-created panel of community members that will discuss new ideas to address land use and school planning and districting to make, "a better student, a better community and a better tax base."About 50 county residents attended the nearly two-hour meeting at the George Pierce Park Community Center in Suwanee on Tuesday as the five members of Gwinnett's Board of Commission put on another in series of meetings around the county.The commissioners will continue the series at Grayson High School this evening, and at Lucky Shoals Park in Norcross on May 9.

Nash has said the events are designed to rebuild public trust in the wake of corruption scandals involving former commissioners. Representatives from several county departments were also available to answer residents' questions.

The first of 10 residents asked the commissioners about placing a lien on a property after non-payment of a trash bill. Nash and Commissioners Heard and Tommy Hunter said the county has five existing garbage contracts that run through 2018, which makes it difficult to change any procedure. They added that the original garbage fee issue was addressed to overcome an illegal dumping problem.

Another resident received clarifications and assurances about revisions to the county's land acquisition procedures, along with upgrading green electronics that were recently each voted on or revised.

Several residents noted sagging property values, which the BOC noted was one reason some parks and recreation operations have seen a reduction in funds.

But one man, Joe Briggs, who recently moved to Suwanee from New Hampshire, expressed his concern about three multi-family housing units in Gwinnett that are being built or scheduled to open soon. He said the town of Manchester, N.H., saw a dilution of property values that led to a stress on school systems as well as an uptick in crime.

Because of the way schools are funded at the county level, Briggs said the apartment complexes, which are "tax negative," could lead to teacher layoffs.

"I'm very vigilant about that," Briggs said. "I've done the math and ... so I take it with great concern, when I look around and see, not rental property, but apartment complexes and very, very large apartment complexes. A dilution by a major apartment building in Norcross is going to affect my property tax bill and how my schools are funded. If someone builds an apartment building in Duluth, they're going to lay off five teachers at North Gwinnett to pay for it."

Briggs said the rise in the building multi-family housing units is based on a business model where the developers essentially don't have to pay full taxes, or can skip out on paying school taxes.

Briggs added that property values are only worth as much of the reputation of the closest elementary school.

Heard said he attended a recent meeting with Gwinnett County Public Schools officials and Lawrenceville City Council members to begin a dialogue about this issue.

Heard invited Briggs to join the panel of community members to hopefully avoid the potential problem he described.

Comments

kevin 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Biggest concerns, public pensions and benefits budgets.

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Why_not 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Are county employees supposed to work an entire career with no pension or health benefits? Would you???

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kevin 11 months, 2 weeks ago

why can't you ever provide a solution instead of knocking free speech, something I know that a Liberal cannot stand except when they speak. The growing and obvious issues are too high pensions and benefit sharing, like how much the employees pays for medical insurance and how much the county puts up? guess I am asking too much for you think think about! What about the oversupply of middle and upper management vs. the # real workers. The top brass continues to add levels of employees to raise the pay of long time employees, which is a waste of taxpayer money. Government is NOT the private sector. Throw in full time pay for unused sick & annual leave and you get a really fat payout for managers. Many states pay about 25 cents on the $ for unused leave. There must be limits to accumulated leave.

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jackster 11 months, 2 weeks ago

The idea here is that if you're going to be working for the government, the fundamental aspects of the job should not be subject to risk - like retirement, healthcare, and vacation. Those three things contribute to long term stability (read: Lower overhead), and the ability to put up with short term risks, like salary issues, budget cuts to programs, and the willingness to serve your community in lieu of higher wages.

That's not really a liberal concept - it's a workforce concept. I would like ot know that my public servants are being given a fair shake.

For instance, in Douglas County, they fired most of their IT people who had been there for years, replacing them with cheaper (newer) support personnel. This in my mind was a horrid move, since now the county has no confidence in their systems.

Or, when their police and county healthcare plans went from something decent and reasonable to a plan which doesn't even cover maternity. Just to save a few bucks.

it's the definition of short nearsightedness.

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Linda 11 months, 3 weeks ago

I have been working for 48 years (full time) and I don't have a pension. How about employees be given a match to a 401k like all of us who work in the private sector?

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Why_not 11 months, 2 weeks ago

That's what the county does now....and has for years.

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MichelleCouch 11 months, 2 weeks ago

I am so "over" the tax-negative apartment argument. I (formerly) lived in Tree Corners of Grayson and had a beautiful 1800 square foot town home. It was larger than my single family home. I would have stayed there forever if I could have continued to afford it (on a special my rent was $1300/market was $1580); however, when the economy declined, as well as my business, lets just say I have moved six times in two years, and now share a very old house with two roommates.

Tree Corners, as well as several other well developed apartment/town-home communities, are no more tax-negative than 150K+ single family cluster home communities.

Communities needs diverse housing - INCLUDING MULTI-FAMILY options - to attract various demographic markets to help drive a wide range of economic development factors!

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Dubbin 11 months, 2 weeks ago

The answer is to tax property based on occupancy - not value. That way a 3 bedroom house worth $250k would be taxed the same as a 3 bedroom apartment worth $100k. Given that both will house the same number of people, load the schools similarly and demand infrstructure like sewer and water equally it seems fair to me.

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Karl 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Interesting concept, Dubbin. What about the three-bedroom home in which I live, though there only two adults and no children living here?

A 'head tax' perhaps?

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Dubbin 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Probably something averaged out for a typical 3 person abode. I don't have kids but I pay school tax as an example. Taxes should be based on consumption not valuation. I feel the same way about cars - a new car doesn't tear up the roads any more than an old one does so why tax it more?

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elephanthead 11 months, 2 weeks ago

"Communities needs diverse housing - INCLUDING MULTI-FAMILY options - to attract various demographic markets to help drive a wide range of economic development factors!" Could someone please translate that into a thought?

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Dubbin 11 months, 2 weeks ago

It means we need apartments for the people who work at McDonalds.

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kevin 11 months, 2 weeks ago

In Gwinnett, a 2-story home pays much less ($) per sq ft than a single story home. That is a little fraudulent when it comes to property taxes. It should be based on "value" not whether the house is a one story or two story house. This is a fact and I have the neighborhood proof.

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