By Gabriel Tynes In the first of two state mandated budget hearings Sept. 11, Walton Board of County Commissioners announced plans to lower the millage rate to 4.06 percent from last year?s 4.6099 percent. They also conceded to a proposal by the Walton County Taxpayer?s Association to consider an additional half-mil decrease. Meanwhile, the BCC announced plans to increase the total operational budget from $124 million last year to $139 million this year. The $14.25 million increase prompted several citizens of the capacity audience to blast the county?s spending practices, and complain the coffers of citizens cannot afford to be pilfered by government offi cials. Commissioners meanwhile said that the county?s tourism industry cannot sustain maintenance and improvement of roads, infrastructure, public safety, parks and recreation. Bonnie McQuiston, president of the Taxpayers Association, said that three of the fi ve commissioners campaigned on the promise of cutting tax and expenditures, and with the new budget proposals they are falling short of their obligations. ?It?s time to take out the pruning knife, cut the expenses and keep your pledges to the people of Walton County,? McQuiston said. ?A budget should not be based on how much you can take from the taxpayers, but the need of the county.? Bob Hudson, the treasurer of the Taxpayers Association, proposed that the county lower millage rates further and limit growth in spending in six percent of operations. Commissioner Ro Cuchens noted the commission granted a decrease in millage rates on behalf of the Taxpayers Association before, and also followed through on its request for $4 million for the Sheriff?s Department. Then, the Sheriff?s Department abandoned management of the county jail, an expense the commission has since had to shoulder. Commissioner Scott Brannon tried to ease the tension, noting ?throughout the year, this room is filled with people wanting things, and those things cost money.? Commissioner Cindy Meadows suggested the board lobby the state legislature to look at how property is appraised and valued. She also mentioned a cap on increases for second or non-homestead properties. Other public comments suggested cutting the budget raises in half, with one audience member asking to rescind the commissioners? recent practice of employing more than one executive assistant. Hudson noted in his presentation county tax has increased 171 percent since 1998 ? a period that has only seen a 48 percent increase in population. ?The truth is in these numbers,? Hudson said. The final budget meeting, in which the operational expenses and millage rates will be confirmed and applied, is Sept. 25 in DeFuniak Springs.