Thursday, December 17, 2015

Geechee taxpayers sue state and county

Property owners on Sapelo Island are suing McIntosh County and the State of Georgia for discrimination and neglect. The lawsuit is based largely on the allegation that the property owners are paying county property taxes based on soaring assessments without receiving services in exchange. From the Atlanta Journal Constitution on Dec. 9: 
Fifty-seven Sapelo Island property owners and residents on Wednesday filed a lawsuit that contends discrimination and neglect by state and local authorities are contributing to the dissolution of one of the last remaining Gullah-Geechee communities in the nation.
The Gullah-Geechee residents are the descendants of slaves whose families have lived on Sapelo Island for more than two centuries. They have seen their numbers dwindle steadily over the years as the island — about 70 miles south of Savannah — has been converted into a vacation destination with luxury homes and resorts. 
All the while, Gullah-Geechee residents pay high property taxes but receive no basic services in return, the federal lawsuit said. Also, the only state-run ferry does not have disability access and has a schedule that makes it practically impossible for someone to live on the island and have a job on the mainland, the suit said. It was filed against a number of defendants, including the state of Georgia and McIntosh County. The governor’s office declined comment. McIntosh County manager Brett Cook did not return a phone call seeking comment. 
Reed Colfax, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said the county must provide services if it is collecting taxes from members of the Gullah-Geechee community. “There is no school, no ambulance, no trash pickup,” he said. “There are no services whatsoever.” Moreover, he added, the county’s high taxes led to some properties on the island being sold at tax auction and others who could not afford the taxes to sell their land…

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