A Letter to White County Commisioners on Short-term Rentals

White County Chairman and Commissioners:

I attended last evening’s meeting hoping to find some answers to my questions about your proposed changes to our Municipal Code.

I learned that there are many upset residents, some upset investors, and more questions than answers at this point.

One of the things that bothers me is not understanding why you are granting certain owners of residential properties the right to turn them into rental businesses.

No one purchases property that is not encumbered in some way.  We all do.  The zoning process has been used to grant some property owners a new right that they did not have legally until the White County Commission votes to give it to them.  That is a new right to run a for-profit short-term rental business on property that is for residential purposes.  

Some owners may state that they have the right to do what they want with their property, but it simply isn’t true.  It hasn’t been true for many decades.

Section 16-200 of the proposed changes states a purpose.  In that paragraph, it includes  “…while minimizing the negative, secondary effects on surrounding properties.”  

Are you going to vote for changes that you acknowledge will have negative, secondary effects on your residents?  If so, you are taking away something we purchased with our property and giving it to another entity.  We lose the residential neighbors and they gain the right to run a commercial business on a residential property.

If you truly believe that we have too many Short-term Rentals, then raise the fees on them so that they are prohibitively expensive.  Offer no variances whatsoever on the properties that they are attempting to be put into the program. Low fees and variances enabled too many rentals that should have never been approved.

On the White County website, you have an organizational chart.  The citizens of White County are at the top of that chart.  The majority of residents were quite clear that they want White County to have fewer short-term rentals.  Here we are trying to remove the citizens from the approval process and to make it easier for property owners (who may or may not be residents) to be granted rights on a property that did not exist until White County approved it.  I hope you think about that carefully.

Do the right thing for your citizens and stop granting rights where they do not exist today. If they existed, we would not have to seek permission to do it.

Preserve the quality of life for the residents who chose to live here rather than destroying it so investors can attempt to turn a profit.

Where we live, we can see and hear the changes and development behind us towards Chimney Mountain.  Lots have been cleared, then smoke rises, and in 12 months we see the Zillow listings for homes that have been constructed that are ideal for “short-term rental investments”.  Residing in the neighborhood of Skylake does not protect us from the impact of short-term rentals.   

Neither will these proposed changes.

White County Wants To Raise Your Property Taxes

White County News Editorial Submission

I’ve been reviewing the Certified Audited Financial Results(CAFR) for White County for 2020. Total tax revenues have been increasing at an annual rate of 3.46% per year since 2011. 

Their argument for the tax increase is the increasing population.  But the population has only been increasing at a rate of 1.25% per year since 2011. The justification for a property tax increase is weak:

“The White County Board of Commissioners works diligently to keep White County’s millage rate as low as possible while providing the necessary services to the ever-growing population and want to stress that their intent is to maintain the current millage rate of 10.75.”

They are going to need a better and more comprehensive statement to convince me that they are not just taking the easy path for additional revenue, allowing people to think that they are not raising taxes as they emphasize that the millage rate is the same.

This process starts with an updated tax digest (sum value of all taxable properties).  A rollback rate is determined.  That is the millage rate that would generate the same revenues as last year from the taxable properties. 

Our tax commissioners should determine how much is needed and then determine what the millage rate to generate that amount of revenue is. 

Instead, they are using last year’s millage rate and multiplying it by the new digest to determine how much they can get and then where can they spend it.  That is a tax increase. 

Property taxes are only one source of funding for White County (51%).  Sales taxes are also a large contribution and they have also risen in the last year.

Please quit repeating that the millage rate is staying the same as if this is not a tax increase for our county.  The Georgia Taxpayer Bill of Rights states this is a tax increase.  Treat it as such and justify it accordingly or choose the Rollback rate for our next property tax bill. 

With the year many of us have had, we do not need a property tax due to inflated real estate values.