What happens to tax money if Varnell Police Dept. gets cut again?

When government saves money by cutting services, should taxpayers get the savings? (Image: WTVC)

When government saves money by cutting services, should taxpayers get the savings? That question is front and center in the small North Georgia community divided over its police services.

The mayor of Varnell, Georgia has restored the police department, but the Varnell City Council may override his veto later this month.

If the police force does go away, Varnell will save about one-third of its total budget of $954,000. Three out of four council members voted to cut the department, which costs about $300,000 a year to operate.

Council member Andrea Gordy says she wants the extra money to go toward fixing parks, community events, cutting property taxes, or a combination of those things.

"We are definitely going to use the money to benefit the public, be it on the property taxes at the end of the day or be it fix parks and do more community events," Gordy said. "We've got some parks that are in disrepair that seriously need attention and we can use the money for some of that."

She says council's goal is to provide the safest community possible, at the lowest price.

"If I can save my community hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, that's what I'm elected to do is to be a good steward of their money, and protect their well being," Gordy said. "We are kind of looking at it from both angles and just trying to do what's right."

She thinks the Whitfield County Sheriff's Office can handle the extra work, but that will likely come at a cost, possibly $50,000 a year for the extra enforcement.

"It's really going to boil down to consolidation. If the sheriffs office can do it, there's no reason to make the taxpayers pay twice. They shouldn't pay for a city cop and a county cop out of their taxes. Taxes are already very high we need to use the tax money the best way we can," Gordy said.

Jeff Coker lives in Varnell and says he wants the police department to stay. He doesn't want the money to be used for other things, and doesn't feel property taxes would be cut anyway.

"I don't see that happening I really don't," Coker said. "They need it here, this is a big old area."

City council has the option to override the mayor's veto at its July 25 meeting. If that happens, the department would be cut again.

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