Before the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners acted Tuesday to hold its millage rate unchanged and keep the revenue resulting from a small overall increase in property values, the Board of Education voted Aug. 11 to roll back its portion of the millage to offset the value inflation.
For property owners whose assessed values did not rise, the net result of the commissioners’ and school board’s opposite actions will be a tiny tax increase. It works out to 50 cents more for the year on a home with a market value of $125,000.
The school system’s chief financial officer, Troy Brown, presented a rollback proposal to the Board of Education in July. Based on information from the tax assessors’ office, a rollback of the school tax from 9.848 to 9.804 mills would prevent the school system from having to announce a tax increase, he explained.
“If we kept the millage rate where it was, we would not be increasing the millage rate, but because of what the law says, we have to say that it’s an increase in the tax rate, and we didn’t want that to be misleading to the taxpayers,” Brown said after the board’s July 28 meeting.
A 1999 Georgia Law, called the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, requires a notice of a tax increase and a series of three tax public hearings if a local government agency takes advantage of inflation in values from reassessments of existing property. However, real growth from new construction doesn’t count.
By voting unanimously to propose a rollback rate of 9.804 mills July 28 and to adopt it Aug. 11, the Board of Education avoided holding any tax increase hearings. It also gave up an estimated $75,000 gain in revenue, but is projected to still see increased property tax revenue from real growth.
A mill is one-thousandth of a dollar tax on each dollar of assessed value of property. Because most property in Georgia is assessed at 40 percent of its market value, a $125,000 home has a $50,000 assessed value, which is the amount multiplied by the millage.
So the school board’s 0.044 mill rollback amounts to $2.20 savings on a home with a market value of $125,000.
Meanwhile, the commissioners, who control county government spending, took the opposite tack. On a recommendation from County Manager Tom Couch, they kept their property tax rate at 12.34 mills, instead of rolling back to 12.286 mills. The county needs the gain of about $100,000 to maintain services without further depleting its already reduced reserves, Couch said.
The commissioners held two tax hearings on Aug. 16 and the third on Monday morning, just before the meeting where commissioners adopted the final millage.
The 0.054-mill rollback the county declined to grant would have been worth $2.70 to the owner of the theoretical $125,000 home. So when offset by the $2.20 school board rollback, the net result appears to be a 50-cent increase in this example, Couch agreed.
However, some actual property owners will pay higher taxes because of increased assessments, as both Brown and Couch pointed out.
Couch said the commissioners hope to grant a more significant rollback in a future year after the county’s fund balance improves.
Meanwhile, school system officials are talking about the possibility of future tax increase as the board has approved a second year of deficit spending from its proportionally larger cash reserve.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.