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County rolls back millage slightly

 

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent
 

  The Henry County Board of Commissioners rolled back the county millage slightly after the final hearing last Wednesday, which included nearly four hours of discussions that involved commissioners, county department heads and citizens.

  The millage was changed from 14.497 to 14.298, which according to this year’s property assessments means tax bills will be slightly higher than last year.

  The vote to approve the new millage was 4-2, with Chairman Tommy Smith and District III Commissioner Gary Barham voting in opposition. Both said they were against any increase in property taxes, although both voted in favor of the $127.4 million budget in June.

  Keeping the tax bills the same would have required a rollback to 12.995 mills.

  County manager Jim Walker pointed out in his presentation just before the vote that, according to the FY2015 budget the commissioners recently adopted, a rollback to 12.995 would have created a $6 million shortfall, while keeping the millage the same as last year would bring in $1.1 million above what is needed for the budget.

  Walker recommended that the $1.1 million be returned to the taxpayers and that the county “preserve the sound financial practice” of keeping a fund balance equal to 25 percent of the total budget, or three months’ expenses.

  Working with the expected revenue numbers from property assessments, the fund balance would be $32.28 million, which is $430,000 more than what is needed. Walker suggested taking $275,000 of that to complete the necessary funding for the library system for the coming years, and the remaining $155,000 would be applied to the budget shortfall.

  A total of $71.99 million in property tax revenue is needed to balance the new budget, and at 12.995 mills the tax digest would produce only $66 million, Walker said, while 14.497 mills would add up to $73.1 million.

  Walker advised the commissioners that next year there will be a new fire station built with SPLOST funds that will require staffing from the general fund, and he expects library funding needs to increase as well as employee health care costs.

  Because of this, the budget will increase next year even if there are no salary increases, no new vehicle purchases, he added.

  District II Commissioner Brian Preston moved to approve Walker’s recommendations for the new millage and District V Commissioner Bruce Holmes seconded.

  Smith referred a couple of times to the motion for a “tax increase” and Holmes corrected him, saying the vote was for a “millage rollback.”

  “It’s still a tax increase,” Smith replied. “No matter how you spin it, it’s a tax increase.”

 

 

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