LaGrange is one of the few cities that doesn't charge property tax to individuals or corporations and one of the vital pieces is owning their own utilities. LaGrange operates their own water, electricity and gas for the city which provides cheaper prices for residents and more money for the community.
Patrick Bowie, utility director in LaGrange, says the city has owned its own electricity system since 1900.
"I guess the investor on utilities didn't think it was a good investment of their funds to come here and build a utility system so the mayor and council at the time got together and said we want electricity for our citizens so lets build an electric system," says Bowie.
The mayor says this kind of innovative thinking is what makes LaGrange a prosperous city.
"The city council is a council that has a type of entrepreneurial spirit. They're willing to take risks and at the same time know that they have to be good stewards of the public's money," says Lukken.
Lukken says the city owns many utility systems. They strive to provide the services their residents need.
"We don't compete with the capitalism if there's a need not being fulfilled for our corporations or citizens and there's no business out there that's willing to fill that need, then the city will step up and fill that gap," says Lukken.
This also makes rates cheaper for residents. Bowie says sometimes as much as 30%. It helps pay for general services which eliminates the property tax.
"That profit goes back to the city to pay for police and fire and those traditional type of governmental services," says Bowie.
LaGrange also has an almost 40 million dollar surplus. They mayor says it's because the city continually tries to improve.
"That's really extraordinary for a government to be able to brag that it has made itself smaller and leaner so that when we go through those tough years that we've been through we don't have to start laying off people and cutting back on services because every year we're existing we're trying to find a way to continue to cut expenses," says Lukken.
The director of utilities says the cities surplus may seem like a lot but it's vital in the development of future projects.
The mayor has some advice for other cities in Georgia.
"Make sure that you're constantly looking for ways to cut expenses but not be afraid to get into some of the free enterprise entrepreneurial spirit," says Lukken.
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