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After having to deal with software conversion issues and missing her goal of last Friday, Grady County Tax Commissioner Barbara Darus was able to present the 2019 tax digest to county and school system officials Monday morning.
The digest has grown by nearly $10 million compared to last year which means one mill of tax will generate approximately $555,000 compared to approximately $545,000 last year.
The growth was not through reassessment of property, but in actual growth. Closer examination reveals residential values increased by about $3 million over 2018; industrial values grew by about $3.5 million; agriculture values were up by about $2 million; but commercial values dipped about $2 million.
The minor reassessment done by the Grady County Board of Tax Assessors actually decreased the value of real property by $400,872.
In addition to real property, the digest shows an increase of $1.3 million for personal property; $414,312 increase in the value of mobile homes; and timber jumped up $3,341,728.
Also providing a boost is the decrease in exempted property from the digest of $1,919,914. Total exemptions are now $145,528,966.
The news that the digest had increased over last year was welcomed by county and school system officials this week.
“The preliminary assessment of the digest appears positive, however we must assess all needs and expenses in the proposed budget and determine if the current tax millage rate is sufficient for Grady County’s future financial requirements. While we are happy to see sales and some growth we must also consider the possibilities of economic downturns in the future and ensure Grady has an equitable sustainability to weather that possibility,” Grady County administrator J.C. (Buddy) Johnson III, said Tuesday.
“Grady County is obligated to a large amount of debt and we must make sure those debts are adequately serviced along with the future debt requirements that come with maintaining a balanced but reasonable budget,” Johnson added.
Grady County finance director Holly Murkerson said she has some adjustments to make on the proposed 2020 budget and very soon will apply the current digest to determine where the county stands with regard to balancing its operating budget.
“While the digest shows improvement over last year, some of the other revenue streams are not performing as budgeted for 2019. I hope to have more information by the end of the week. Of course, we still must tentatively prepare in the event that SPLOST doesn’t pass in November,” Murkerson said.
County officials have made no secret about the possibility of delaying the mailing of tax bills until after the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum is held in November.
Johnson is anticipating the county setting a tentative millage rate significantly higher than the current 15.390 mills in order to generate sufficient revenue to cover the debt service for the revenue bonds issued to finance the Tired Creek Lake project that is currently paid in large part by sales tax proceeds.
The county administrator’s hope is that the sales tax will be approved and commissioners will set a final millage rate that is closer to the existing rate and bill can be mailed to local taxpayers by Nov. 20, 2019 and will be due by Jan. 20, 2020. However, the Grady County Commission has not made a final decision.
Grady County Schools superintendent Dr. Kermit Gilliard and finance officer Dan Broome were busy Monday and Tuesday evaluating the digest figures and considering the options to present to the Grady County Board of Education when it meets Aug. 5 for a budget workshop.
According to Broome, over the last 25 years the school board has maintained an average millage rate of 13.485 mills. “We are looking at several options, but I would not be comfortable dropping the rate below 13.5 mills,” Broome said.
Voters earlier this year approved an Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, which benefits the public schools and the local school system is also benefiting from increased state funding.