Boards vote to hold tax rates unchanged

Both the Grady County Commission and the Grady County Board of Education voted unanimously this week to hold current ad valorem tax millage rates unchanged, but some local residents will likely pay more in county and school taxes this fall.
The county commission voted Monday night to adopt a tentative millage rate of 13.25 mills, which is the same rate approved last year. On Tuesday night, the Grady County Board of Education followed suit and voted to tentatively adopt a millage rate of 14.2 mills, which is the current school tax rate.
For local taxpayers whose real property value increased as part of a $13,329,144 reassessment both votes will result in a slight tax increase. Those property owners whose values remained level will pay the same amount of tax and those whose values decreased will pay a lesser amount of county and school taxes.
According to county officials, the increase when 13.25 mills is applied to the 2014 tax digest is only 2.65 percent. The increase for school taxes is 2.68 percent, according to school system officials.
In public notices of the proposed tax increase being published in this edition of The Cairo Messenger, the owner of a house with a fair market value of $100,000 will pay $14.80 more in school taxes and $13.68 more in county taxes this fall. On homes with a fair market value of $250,000 the homeowner will pay $37 more in school taxes and $34.20 more in county taxes.
The increase for the majority of tax payers will be much less, according to School System Finance Officer Dan Broome.
Broome told school board members Tuesday night the average home in Grady County has a fair market value of $55,000 so the average increase in school taxes would be $8.
At 14.2 mills the school system is projected to collect $95,901 more in local school taxes than it did in 2013.
Broome recommended to the board to hold the millage rate at the current level rather than reduce it. According to the finance officer, the rate would have had to be dropped below 13.83 mills to avoid a tax increase and the required three public hearings.
However, a drop by that amount would have cost the system approximately $103,508.
“Last year, we left the rate where it was and we had to take $600,000 out of reserves to balance the budget. The more stable we can hold the millage rate the better off we are. We learned that lesson several years ago when we dropped the millage from 12.8 to 11.8 and it wound up costing us about $700,000 in state funding,” Broome said.
This will be the first time since 2007 that the school board will be required to hold public hearings on the proposed tax increase.
Broome also pointed out that for the first time in six years the county’s tax digest grew rather than shank, however, he said the majority of the growth was a result of the reassessment of values by Grady County Tax Assessors.
Prior to the school board’s vote to set the tentative millage rate Board Chairman Jeff Worsham stated, “I’m ok with setting the tentative millage at 14.2 mills, but I would be opposed to raising it above that.”
The school board will hold two hearings next Thursday, July 17 with the first to begin at 7:30 a.m. and the second at 6:30 p.m. Both hearings will take place at the VanLandingham Center at 203 North Broad Street.
Grady County Administrator Carlos Tobar also recommended the board of commissioners take a similar approach and hold the current millage rate for 2014.
Based on Tobar’s projections of revenues versus expenditures at 13.25 mills the county would have a surplus of $38,948.
“How will those whose values went up through revaluations be zapped by this increase?” Commission Chairman T.D. David asked.
Commissioner Charles Norton said the increase would be paid by a minority of taxpayers. He said that only $13,329,144 in increased value out of a total digest of $516,981,813 was only slight. “Some folks will pay a little more,” Norton said.
“If we hold it at 13.25 we’ve done what we promised we would do when we ran for this office and that is to get the biggest bang for the buck and provide the services the people demand at a fair price,” Chairman David said.
Commissioner Elwyn Childs told commissioners Monday night that if taxes did increase there will be those who blame it on the Tired Creek Lake. “You can expect to hear that, whether it’s true or not,” Childs said.
Childs also said that if work to resurface Old 179 was included in the budget that would satisfy many who may be opposed to a slight tax increase.
Tobar said that his plan is to begin with the civil engineering required for the road project and to have that completed by the end of the year. According to the administrator, the section of Old 179 to be resurfaced is 15 miles long and along the way are many culverts and pipes that will need to be replaced or widened.
The county commission will also hold two hearings next Thursday with the first beginning at 9 a.m. and the second at 6 p.m. Both will be held at the courthouse.
Both the school board and the county commission are scheduled to vote on final approval of the millage rate at called meetings on Thursday, July 24. Grady County Tax Commissioner Phyllis Gainous will then deliver the county’s tax digest to the Georgia Department of Revenue by July 31.

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