I do not live in Oakwood but I have operated a business in the city for more than 10 years. My wife grew up in Oakwood and my father-in-law lives there. Our company has been involved with many charities that have benefited the area and we feel like Oakwood is our second home.
I was very disappointed to find out Oakwood was considering raising property taxes by 50 percent. It is ridiculous that Oakwood suddenly has budget problems that warrant such a large increase. The city does not have a fire department or school system and basically runs water and police departments. Oakwood, I would venture to say, is not significantly more complicated to manage than any other of the hundreds of small towns in Georgia.
This year, the water department significantly raised prices. My Oakwood business location, one of four I own, pays 60 percent more for water than my other units. My Buford location, which also gets water from Gainesville, pays less than Oakwood. Could the water department be the source of this 50 percent tax increase? I don’t see how.
If we rule out the water department, what are we left with? The police department? I have not seen a significant increase in the department’s size in the last decade. The same officers still come around every year with a marketing company asking, or basically forcing, me to buy ads in a calendar to help pay their bills.
From the article in The Times, it sounds like the budget woes are being attributed to the Thurmon Tanner Parkway extension and the water department. Why would the Thurmon Tanner money come out of operating funds? Are the taxpayers not already paying for the water department expansion on their water bills? That was how the water bill increase was sold to us.
While I read about Gainesville and Hall County making significant cuts during the recession, I never once saw Oakwood cutting people or expenses. In fact, in 2010 Oakwood decided to sweeten its employee pension plan without a public vote and no analysis presented to the taxpayers of the city on what that would cost.
I discussed this in a letter written and published in 2010 in The Times. Sadly it had no response. Most people do not realize the true cost of public employee benefits and how it has been the way city, state and federal employees have lined their pockets for years.
Governments and their entities want to grow. It allows government employees and elected leaders to have more prestige, power and, most importantly, more pay. Oakwood has this grand 2030 plan. I’m sure that plan’s No. 1 goal is to double the size of its government. Cities and counties always sell property tax increases as a few dollars on a $100,000 home. For my business, it is much more than that on top of the extra $2,000-$3,000 in water bills I will pay this year.
It is sad to see that even conservative governments and leaders are all about cutting and downsizing until it applies to them.