News 12 at 6 o'clock, January 2, 2009
AUGUSTA, Ga.---A state budget shortfall forced Governor Sonny Perdue to freeze millions in homeowner tax relief. Many local property owners could be left out in the cold. This all comes as Augusta swears in a new tax commissioner.
"Here you go," said Burris Gooden. "Keep the change."
Gooden maintained his sense of humor as he forked over property tax dollars.
"I just paid," said Gooden. "A little late, but I paid."
He paid as the man responsible for collecting it all was sworn in. News 12 had the only cameras rolling as hundreds witnessed Richmond County's first black tax commissioner take office.
"We are proving that people aren't always looking at color," said tax commissioner Steven Kendrick. "They're sometimes looking at competence."
This year is certain to be a test. The governor, looking to dig the state out of a 1.4 billion dollar hole, froze millions of dollars in homeowner tax relief.
"Well he should unfreeze it," said Gooden. "We can use all the help we can get."
It's news that could leave Burris making another trip to the tax commissioners office.
"We have already discounted that off the tax bill," said Kendrick. "We need for our local delegation to get that money put back so that our government doesn't have that loss."
Taxpayers like Mr. Gooden would be left to foot the bill. They would have to pay as much as $300 more a year in taxes.
"Pretty soon we're gonna keep the tax and just give them our pay check," joked Gooden. "Taxes are really getting out of hand."
"I'm going to be commenting and working with our local delegation to make sure that they get that back in," said Kendrick.
"We're going to give him that first 100 days and see what he does," said Gooden. "If he doesn't do well, we'll put him on the list with everybody else."
This year's legislative session begins Monday, January 12th. If they're not successful in getting those dollars there is always the city's rainy day fund. But we're talking at least 3 million dollars. Don't forget city buses are also in the hole. They are also looking for assistance. At some point the city will have to decide whether to increase taxes or reduce services.