Property tax hike
Facing a possible $1 million budget shortfall next year, the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners are proposing a half-mill increase to the current 1-mill debt bond tax and maintain the current maintenance and operating millage rate of 6.983.
Three public hearings will be held later this month for citizen input into the proposed increases.
The increases would amount to $33.72 per $100,000 assessed value of properties in the county.
The county plan follows on the heels of the Board of Education proposal to retain its current millage rate of 16.620, which will result in a $766,325 tax increase or $144.15 for a residence fair market valued at $150,000.
Had the county adopted the proposed rollback rate of 6.640, it would have saved the county $35,000 in next year’s budget.
Retaining the current rollback rate and the half-mill increase is expected to result in the needed $1 million revenue.
None of the three commissioners, Chairman Charlie Paris, Post 1 Commissioner Dallas Miller or Post 2 Commissioner Travis Crouch, were in favor of the increases but agreed they had little choice.
“I’d rather do this this year than next,” Paris said. “I’m never in favor of kicking the can down the road.”
“If we don’t have the raises, we’ll have to cut services,” he added while pointing out the county workforce is half of what it was five years ago.
Crouch pointed out the combined millage rates of the county and board of education (24.603) are the 29th lowest of the 159 counties in the state.
By contrast, Fannin County’s millage rate is 4.794 and the school board’s rate is 12.9. In Pickens County, the rates are 7.222 and 16.1.
Miller said the only expected future revenue growth for the county would have to come from sales taxes, not increased property tax. But he noted the assessed value of properties in the county was up 7 percent from a year ago.
However, sales tax revenue for the first six months of this year is lagging behind the first six months of 2015. So far, the county has collected $230,808 compared to $241,774 in the first six months of 2015.
But the hotel/motel tax increase for 2015 was up significantly over the previous year. The county collected $489,358 last year up from $405,166 in 2014.
Miller expressed concern the tax digest was not going to increase, partly because of the closure of the emergency room and hospital at North Georgia Medical Center.
However, County Assessor Teresa Gooch said it was too early to predict what the impact will be.
“We’ll just have to see what the market dictates,” she said.
Tax Commissioner Becky Marshall said the county’s exemption for property owners older than 65 was a major attraction for new buyers, especially retirees who would benefit from the exemption.
Crouch, who has been spearheading the county and Joint Development Authority efforts to retain the hospital, said it didn’t look good for reopening the facility.
“We’ll need to adjust. Ringgold (Fort Oglethorpe) lost their hospital but Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops recently opened (large retail centers) in that area,” he said.
Public hearings will be held next Wednesday, Aug. 17, at 8 a.m. in the commissioners meeting room. Two more meetings will be held Aug. 29 at 2 and 6 p.m. before a 7 p.m. called meeting to adopt the changes.
The staggered times were proposed to allow citizens to attend at least one of the meetings.