Goreham defends her vote to OK tax hike, ’11 SPLOST
by Geoff Folsom
gfolsom@mdjonline.com
January 13, 2012 12:00 AM | 3329 views | 28 28 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Commissioner Helen Goreham speaks to her constituents during an informational town hall meeting at the North Cobb Senior Center on Thursday.<br>Staff/Jon-Michael Sullivan
Commissioner Helen Goreham speaks to her constituents during an informational town hall meeting at the North Cobb Senior Center on Thursday.
Staff/Jon-Michael Sullivan
slideshow
ACWORTH — At her town hall meeting Thursday evening, northwest Cobb Commissioner Helen Goreham borrowed slides from Commission Chairman Tim Lee’s “State of the County” address to justify her vote last year to raise property taxes.

Like Lee, Goreham voted “yes” in the 3-2 July 27 Board of Commissioners decision that raised Cobb’s millage rate by 15.7 percent, or about $105 on a $200,000 home. But, during her presentation at the North Cobb Senior Center, she showed a PowerPoint presentation displaying numbers that showed Cobb was among the lowest among large metro Atlanta goverments — Cobb, Gwinnett, DeKalb and Fulton counties, as well as the city of Atlanta — in property and sales tax, as well as budget and number of employees.

“You keep hearing that people are taxed out of their minds in Cobb County,” she told the audience of around 50 people. “I beg to differ. … We’re doing it with less employees, with less money, with a smaller operating budget.”

But not all those in attendance were pleased with Goreham’s support of the millage increase, as well as the 2011 SPLOST, which passed with Cobb voters by 79 votes on March 15, 2011.

“She goes along with the crowd,” Raymond Lunsford of Acworth said. “We don’t need that in a commissioner.”

Lunsford said he came to the meeting because he was concerned that Goreham might run for commission chairman.

“So far, I disagree with her votes,” Lunsford said. “She’s voted consistently against my principles.”

Others questioned why the county closed the county’s only senior day care center as well as the Windy Hill Senior Center to deal with budget cuts, while part of the 2011 SPLOST was set aside for senior centers.

But Cobb Senior Services director Pam Breeden said the SPLOST money was set aside for specific projects and could not be used to keep the senior centers running.

“It was the toughest decision staff has made in a lot of years,” she said. “There were a lot of tears shed.”

Police pay was another hot topic of the evening.

Cobb Police Chief John Houser was called upon to discuss the recent report by the November-December Superior Court grand jury, which recommended better pay and more benefits for police, out of concerns that Cobb is losing officers to other departments.

While the department has always lost officers, Houser said the biggest problem the department is seeing now is that officers are leaving for smaller city departments, something that didn’t used to happen with the 600-person force.

“Over they years, people have always wanted to come work with the big boys,” Houser said. “It’s not dire, but, if it continues, it could be a problem.”

County Manager David Hankerson said he plans to meet with Houser, who spoke to the grand jury, about the department’s concerns next week. Among the issues to be considered is “take-home” cars, which is a perk other departments can offer.

But Hankerson said coming up with the money to provide every officer with a car can be difficult.

“To go from 100-something cars to 600, you have to have a plan,” Hankerson said.

After the meeting, Goreham said a long-range plan to improve police compensation would have to be developed.

“I don’t think this is something that can be addressed overnight,” she said. “Obviously we’re constrained by our finances, but I think if we look at a long-range plan that addresses, perhaps, the automobile situation, that would be a plus. You’ve got to start somewhere.”

Another issue that drew interest at the meeting was roundabouts. Though the county only has two of the circular intersections in operation, some want to see more. But they would like to see the county do more to help drivers learn how to navigate through them.

As a result of the concern, Mike Wright, District 1 engineer for the Cobb Department of Transportation, said the county would put out information on how to navigate the roundabouts. The county has plans to build at least two more roundabouts.

Several candidates for office attended the meeting, including Mike Boyce and Larry Savage, who have both announced they will run against Lee for chairman. Also in attendance were Cobb Superior Court Judge Reuben Green, Marietta municipal associate Judge Nathan Wade, who is running for Superior Court judge, and Bill Clements, a candidate for the Cobb EMC board.

This was the first town hall hosted by one of Cobb’s four district commissioners in 2012. County spokesman Robert Quigley said the next town hall scheduled is northeast Cobb Commissioner JoAnn Birrell’s Feb. 16 meeting at the Mountain View Community Center, 3400 Sandy Plains Road.

Goreham was elected to her third term on the Board of Commissioners in November 2010. She is the first woman to be elected to three consecutive terms on the board.

Goreham, trained as a physical therapist, has an undergraduate degree from Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, N.Y., and a master’s in health care administration from National University in San Diego.

Jon Whitmer of Kennesaw said he has been “generally pleased” with the job Goreham has done.

“I agree with most of what I’ve heard,” he said. “I haven’t heard anything negative at all (from her).”
Comments
(28)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
Where is the money?
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January 15, 2012
So this week we give all the police officers take home cars. Next week all the firemen will want take home cars, then the sheriff deputies and then the correction officers. The cycle will continue until the county is providing cars, gas, and insurance for thousands public safety employees. How many millions will this cost the Cobb taxpayers.

Let see 600 police officers at $100 per week is over 3 million dollars per year. Where is this money coming from?

NotSoPC
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January 16, 2012
I like the fact that police officers can drive their patrol cars home.

Anytime you can demonstrate a police presence in a neighborhood is a good thing.

In my opinion they aren't paid nearly enough for risking their lives on a daily basis. At least this is a benefit that makes up for some of that.

As far as firemen are concerned, simply pay them more. They risk their kives also, but they can't very well drive their fire engines home.

SG68
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January 16, 2012
It should come from the other non essential county employees.

Either in lower, more reasonable pay or by eliminating their positions altogether.

Simple, but not something our commissioners want to do.

Do you really think that our County Manger deserves to be paid $200K per year or our Cobb DOT Director $125K per year?
How much more?
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January 16, 2012
The fire department has more that engines. They have cars too. How much of a pay increse should police and fire receive? It is not uncommon for police and fire to make 70-100K with only a high school education.

Fire works 8 days a month and have other full time jobs. Police use their county uniforms to make more on part time jobs than most people make a year. They are among the highest paying departments in the state. These people couldn't make this in the private sector.

So how much more should they make? And where is the money? What postions do you cut? How high should taxes be?
Ms Fitt
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January 17, 2012
That's an easy question. With Helen Goreham on the Commission a tax increase is inevitable and soon to

be.
Ms Behaving
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January 17, 2012
Don't worry; with Helen Goreham on the Commission it will not be a problem, just a few tax increases.
May Retta
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January 15, 2012
Tax us now, tax us when, tax us over and over again, to you it matters not if we hurt since

our words are but moanings, senseless groanings.

On election day you will hear our message loud

and clear as we say bye bye Helen dear!
top cat
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January 14, 2012
These are Republicans?

No wonder 95% of people polled despise politicians.
givemeliberty
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January 14, 2012
Isn't this the same Helen who was pushing the "roof" tax a few years back? Cobb's lower taxes should be a reason to celebrate and promote to the over-taxed citizens in other counties looking for a place to move.
postman Steve
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January 13, 2012
I have known Helen Goreham for a long time even before she became a commissioner and Helen is an outstanding citizen and a superb leader who has worked very hard to make Cobb County a better place for all of us. People like her make us all proud to be an American! Thank you Helen for a job well done!
Postmaster Marie
|
January 14, 2012
Nice to hear from you, Helen. Your tax increase hit us pretty hard. Are you really planning another

increase so soon? Do you frequently use your pen name? See you soon.

Ms Fitt
|
January 13, 2012
If anyone is out of touch with reality, it's

Helen Goreham.
Luke Duke
|
January 13, 2012
Hankerson must go!!!! That way it will give him more time at the garden for some good times with the boys!!!!
giveusabreaktoday
|
January 13, 2012
I should have voted for that Church guy. At least he knows how to shake things up.
CobbCountyRedneck
|
January 13, 2012
Pointing out the higher level of property taxes in other neighboring counties is certainly not justification for raising property taxes in Cobb.

That attitude has disaster written all over it!!

This is certainly not a situation where we want to keep up with the Jone's.

And where does Commissioner Goreham stand on the Regional TSPLOST tax?

Does she support that boondoggle of Cobb Taxpayers?
Really Unimpressed
|
January 13, 2012
Helen....your Long Island style approach to governance is just totally worn out. Your incessant bombast and near-thuggery -- including basically dictating to your constituents what they will have as opposed to listening to them and crafting a creative, BALANCED solution -- has become really quite annoying.

The thought of your elevation to Commission Chairman, therefore, does not settle well with me. (This would yield a "Byrne-type" approach to the top BOC job. Not good.)

In the meantime, while you are trying to defend double-whammy tax hikes, perhaps you will explain why you were so outrageously anxious to spend nearly $20million taxpayer dollars on land priced at roughly DOUBLE its market value...to make a park that you now can't afford to improve with even a single walking path? What kind of (county) executive sense does that make?
Ms Behaving
|
January 13, 2012
The fact is Ms Goreham voted for a tax increase rather than cut county expenses at a time when many families were struggling financially. The voters will be heard and seen at election time.
itstime
|
January 13, 2012
Helen Goreham and Time Lee - RINOS to the end. She cannot explain away raising taxes in a recession and more than that, supporting a Chairman that is clueless. I think the residents of Cobb County now realize that they made more bad decisions than just the votes for Goreham and Lee. We need to get people on the BOC that will stand up for our principles and not the wants of the CID's and Chamber.
West Cobber
|
January 13, 2012
Love it when these politicians say things like "only $105 increase no a $200,000 home". That would be fine if homes were actually appraised for what they are worth - my home at one time was probably worth that much - however, in the past 3 years homes very muc like mine in my neighborhood have sold for about half of this value, but still the appraisals don't come down. I agree with ol' retired doc, it seems we are always being told how lucky we are they we don't "pay what other counties do", or if you were "in England you would be paying more for gas". Wonder if they have ever stopped to consider that this is why we don't live in another county or country. I am sure that has never crossed their minds - if they had one.
ol' retired doc
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January 13, 2012
Helen Goreham just said it like it is for a change. As she sees it, if any neighboring county has a lower tax than Cobb, Cobb needs a tax increase to catch up. Hold on to your wallets!
Mr.N
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January 13, 2012
Does anyone know if Matt and Callesta have the same

hair stylists?

Hanibal
|
January 13, 2012
Doing away with Quigley and Hankerson positions,

with there inflated salaries would provide for

additional police cars.

Acworth resident
|
January 13, 2012
My husband and I attended last night's meeting. We continue to be impressed with Commissioner Goreham's practical approach with handling the many issues and challenges facing her. She continues to vote FOR our principles. We are glad she is our Commissioner.
May Retta
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January 13, 2012
"Our principles" such as increase taxes?
Goreham District
|
January 13, 2012
As I posted yesterday in an article about Tim Lee's campaign finances trickling in: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me! Your support of the SPLOST last year and then the real property tax increase was just too much to stomach. I had hoped you would be one to stand up and face facts and force others to do the same: the County cannot be all things to all people. The demands for more and more money from Cobb's residents has soured me on your ability to do the hard work of cutting services and thereby expenditures just like so many thousands of Cobb families have had to do in the last few years. Helen, I can NOT vote for you again.
Just Wait
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January 13, 2012
I'm sure you are all for cutting services performed by the county, untill it effects you personally.
Goreham district
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January 13, 2012
Just wait...I'm willing to forego some services. For starters here are a few things that I could do without:

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