Statesboro city officials will hold three public meetings Tuesday. Two of them, the noon and 6 p.m. sessions, are tax increase hearings triggered by the city’s keeping its property tax millage rate unchanged while property values increase.
Between those public hearings, City Council will hold a 3:30 p.m. work session, which is also open to the public, to hear a review of the city’s financial position from a financial advisement firm, Davenport & Company.
A tax increase notice published in last Tuesday’s Statesboro Herald shows that the city’s proposed millage rate for 2018 collections, 7.308 mills, is the same as last year’s, but that this amounts to a 4.33 percent property tax increase. Under a state law called the Georgia Taxpayer Bill of Rights, when a local government takes advantage of inflation in tax appraisals for an increase in revenue, it must issue a public notice and hold three hearings before a final vote.
The mayor and council would have had to propose a rollback to 7.005 mills to avoid the hearings. By keeping the millage the same, the city expects to receive about $260,000 in additional revenue. Overall, property taxes will be a source of roughly $5 million for the current $15.3 million fiscal year 2019 general fund budget.
“When you look at the past, I believe it’s probably since 2008, almost 10 years, the only mill increase has been the one that was done last year by the council, which was one mill that just went directly to the Police Department, and over those years, expenses have gone up,” said City Manager Randy Wetmore.
Other hearing Sept. 4
After Tuesday’s noon and 6 p.m. hearings, City Council is scheduled to hold the third tax increase hearing with its 9 a.m. Sept. 4 regular meeting. After the Sept. 4 hearing, the council can vote to set the millage.
As Wetmore noted, last year’s 1-mill hike, which the council committed to raises for Statesboro Police Department officers and other public safety purposes, was the city’s only millage rate increase in a 10-year span.
In the past five years, the city saw property tax revenue increases of a little less than 5 percent in 2013 and 2014, then a slight, 0.34 percent drop in 2015 and 1.4 percent growth in 2016. But 2017’s millage hike, plus growth in the digest, resulted in a 16.37 increase for 2017, as show in the city’s published tax digest and levy history, also published last Tuesday.
A mill is one-thousandth the value of property as assessed for taxes, and most real estate in Georgia is assessed at 40 percent of property value for taxes.
So this year’s 4.33 percent increase, or 0.303-mill non-rollback, amounts to a $15.15 average increase in tax on property with a $125,000 market value, or a $14.54 increase for a $125,000 owner-occupied home with the homestead exemption.
However, the actual increase on specific properties varies with the individual appraisals, which are performed by the Bulloch County Board of Tax Assessors staff.
“When you look at the increase it’s just barely over a dollar a month, and when you look at the services that are provided in the general fund – police and fire and public works, streets and parks, all of those services – it does take a little bit of increase to keep those things operating and allow the city to provide those services at the level people expect,” Wetmore said.
Davenport and Company’s review, to be presented at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, is not an audit but is meant to give the city government a baseline for financial planning, he said.