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Lend me your ear(mark)s

Judging solely by political affiliation, a comparison of our local congressmen’s federal tax dollar expenditures on pet projects via earmarks yields surprising results.

Between 2008 and 2010, Republican Jack Kingston (GA–1) spent nearly four times the tax dollars of Democrat John Barrow (GA–12) through earmarks, according to data from Taxpayers for Common Sense and the website Legistorm.
During the last three budget years, Kingston helped sponsor 153 earmarks totaling $227.8 million, while Barrow netted 54 earmarks worth $44.4 million.

While earmarking federal dollars for local projects is fairly commonplace — almost as common as a Republicans who run on platforms saying the practice is wasteful and should be stopped — the irony is that Kingston authored an anti–earmark bill in 2008.

He’s also a member of the House Fiscal Integrity Task Force and has repeatedly railed against Democrats for their spending.

Although many of his earmarks benefited Georgia, a number of them funded projects in other states, including Ohio and Virginia. About 30 percent of Kingston’s earmarks (56 out of 153) were spent on defense and military related projects.
Probably not coincidentally, three of the top ten contributors to his campaign fund are defense contractors, including Raytheon, Alliant Tech Systems and General Dynamics.

Fees–ability study

According to a report from the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts, several institutions in the state University System are misappropriating student fees.

“We found expenditures that were either not appropriate or not properly documented,” says the report. “These transactions involved the use of student activity fees to fund ineligible programs, to provide improperly reconciled cash advances to faculty members, or to fund excessive/unnecessary travel for faculty, staff members and students.”

Students pay fees ranging from $194 to $855 per semester depending on which school they attend, which brought in more than $239 million in 2009.

In one example, Georgia Gwinnett College used student fees to help fund the acquisition and rehabilitation of two new facilities, costing nearly $14 million.

It takes a millage

The Chatham County Commission has announced that the millage rate, used to calculate property tax payments, will not increase for General Maintenance and Operations taxes or Chatham Area Transit. There’s a chance the millage for the Special Service District could see a small increase.

Increases in assessments were frozen by law last year in response to the recession. However, if property values in the county had decreased, the millage rate might have increased. State law requires that a rollback rate must be computed that will produce the same total revenue as the prior year’s rate would have created had no reassessments taken place.

There will be three public hearings on the change (or lack thereof): June 22 at 9:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. and July 9 at 9:30 a.m. at the Chatham County Commissioner’s meeting room, 124 Bull Street.