County commission to vote on proposed 2019 millage rate

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Procedural snafu requires commission set aside prior June vote, hold another public hearing

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Taxes are on the rise again.

Sort of.

While the Habersham County Commission decided its proposed 2019 millage rate in June, an oversight in the approval process has officials taking two steps back.

County Manager Phil Sutton said the Georgia Department of Revenue (DoR) is requiring the commission hold an additional public hearing on the proposed 2019 millage rate in order to approve the tax digest for 2019.

“The commission held two public hearings on one day at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.,” he explained to The Northeast Georgian.

The 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. public hearings were held during called meetings June 19, with the third being held during a June 26 called meeting, followed by a vote.

According to the DoR representative, Sutton said, one of those meetings June 19 should have been held prior to noon.

“We were unaware of this rule, therefore the prior approval of the millage rate is set aside and an additional hearing and vote is required,” he said.

The same figures presented at those meetings will be proposed at a called meeting slated for 6 p.m. today, Aug. 14, at the new Habersham County Administration Building Commissioner Conference Room, located at 130 Jacob’s Way, Clarkesville. The public is invited to voice their input prior to a vote by the commission.

At its called meeting June 26, commissioners voted to assess a 2019 millage rate of 11.689 for Habersham County, 1.138 for the hospital bond and 0.673 for the Emergency Medical Services Special District. The action passed 4-0, with commissioner Natalie Crawford absent.

“After receiving the tax assessment for 2019 and compiling the Fiscal Year 2020 operating and capital budget, it is recommended that the county millage rate for 2019 be set at 11.689 (or increased by 0.1466 mills),” stated an executive summary.

The 2018 millage rate was 11.543 mills and the 2017 millage rate, 11.176 mills.

“This increase in the millage rate is necessary to cover a portion of the merit pay program and to increase full-time E-911 dispatchers’ salaries to slow down the rate of turnover,” it stated.

Prior to the 2017 millage rate increase, for three years, commissioners accepted the rollback millage rate, which reduced property tax revenue by $477,188 ($45,941 for 2016, $266,379 for 2015 and $164,868 for 2014).

The countywide hospital millage rate decreased by 0.065 mills and will be billed at the bond rate.

Prior to the vote, the commission announced in a press release it had tentatively adopted a millage rate that would require an 1.93-percent increase in property taxes.

“Each year, the board of tax assessors is required to review the assessed value for property tax purposes of taxable property in the county. When the trend of prices on properties that have recently sold in the county indicates there has been an increase in the fair market value of any specific property, the board of tax assessors is required by law to re-determine the value of such property and adjust the assessment. This is called a reassessment,” it stated.

The release stated when the total digest of taxable property is prepared, Georgia law requires that a rollback millage rate must be computed that will produce the same total revenue on the current year’s digest that last year’s millage rate would have produced had no reassessments occurred.

According to the release, the proposed tax increase for a home with a fair market value of $150,000 is approximately $8.76 and the proposed increase for a non-homestead property with a fair market value of $150,000 is approximately $8.76.

County Finance Director Heidi Hook said the gross millage rate of 11.689 equals a total county taxes levied of $14,346,420. The net increase to taxes is $447,900, she said.

See a future edition of The Northeast Georgian for coverage from this week’s called meeting.