Last updated: July 19. 2014 1:38PM - 3056 Views

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Dear Editor,
As the Executive Director of DASH for LaGrange, Inc., I took exception to information presented in Mr. Bill Gilmore's letter to the editor “Property tax increase for 2015” that appeared in the July 14th addition of the LaGrange Daily News.
Representations in Mr. Gilmore's letter related to DASH for LaGrange, Inc. are both misinformed and misleading. I would like to provide clarification on several statements made by Mr. Gilmore. Statement by Mr. Gilmore: “As chairman (of the county commission) he also had a request put on the agenda (related to the county budget) for $220,000 for tax payer funds for his DASH corporation.” Clarification: The county was asked to commit $20,000 as match for $200,000 in federal funds administered by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) through its CHIP program.
Troup County was awarded $200,000 in federal grant funds to provide assistance to low-income homeowners in unincorporated Troup County to make health and safety related improvements to their homes. The amount of tax payer money committed by the county for this program was $20,000. DASH administers the program at no cost to Troup County. DASH provides grant writing and program administration services to Troup County and the three municipalities within Troup County free of charge.
Countywide, DASH has been successful in securing over $5.3 million in federal grants through DCA to improve the county's housing stock. Statement by Mr. Gilmore: “His (the county commission chairman's) excuse (for budgeting funds for the CHIP program) was that the DASH homeowners have a hard time paying for the necessary repairs to the homes they own.” Clarification: It would be extremely rare for a previous DASH client in unincorporated Troup County to be eligible to receive CHIP assistance. I am not sure how Mr. Gilmore is defining a “DASH homeowner.”
DASH itself does not categorize clients as “DASH homeowners.” DASH has built and sold more than 80 homes, primarily in the Hillside neighborhood of LaGrange. None have been built in unincorporated Troup County. Purchasers of these homes could be considered DASH homeowners. DASH provides home ownership counseling and education to make clients mortgage-ready. When clients successfully secure mortgage financing and purchase a home on the open market these clients could be considered DASH homeowners. DASH has provided down payment assistance using federal grant money. Clients who received down payment assistance could be considered DASH homeowners.
In any event, DASH must adhere to numerous state and federal regulations, one of which restricts the use of CHIP fund for clients who have previously received other types of federal assistance. Statement by Mr. Gilmore: “Some of the DASH properties are supposedly owned by landlords who rent them. It is unreasonable for the taxpayers of Troup County to be paying for a landlord's upkeep of property they are profiting from by renting.” Clarification: Not one penny of Troup County tax payer money has benefited a landlord through DASH. In fact, DASH has secured and reinvested over $51 million throughout Troup County. The resulting developments have increased the county tax base by more than $30 million dollars.
Again, I am not sure how Mr. Gilmore defines “DASH Properties.” DASH owns and manages 50 units of rental housing. None are located in unincorporated Troup County and none have received any Troup County tax dollar support. DASH has partnership interests in five affordable multi-family rental developments (326 units) in Troup County located in the cities of LaGrange, Hogansville and West Point. None are located in unincorporated Troup County and none have received any Troup County tax dollar support.
DASH owns several vacant parcels of land in the city of LaGrange. None are located in unincorporated Troup County and none have received any Troup County tax dollar support. Troup County tax payers have only benefited from the work DASH has done through an improved housing stock and increased tax revenue. I understand that this is a small community. The chair of the county commission is also the founder and chairman of DASH for LaGrange, Inc.
Citizens should question local government decisions and I applaud Mr. Gilmore for being an engaged citizen. I ask, however, that for those who feel they need to reference DASH for LaGrange, or any other local organization to bolster a political point of view, please research your information as courtesy to the communities we serve, our professional, hardworking staff and our many committed volunteers.
I would be more than happy to meet with you to provide factual information regarding DASH programs. My phone number is 706-298-0581.
Respectfully Submitted,
Cathy Smith
Executive Director
DASH for LaGrange, Inc.

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