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Commissioner Steve Taylor hosts public hearings on millage hike
by Monica Burge
July 23, 2013 02:42 PM | 2198 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A third and final public hearing will be held Wednesday at 9 a.m. for public comment on a proposed increase to Bartow County’s millage rate.

Following the hearing, Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor will then take action on the proposed change at a 10 a.m. meeting in the commissioner’s conference room.

Bartow County announced its intention recently to increase property taxes by 25.2 percent for unincorporated areas and 21.2 percent for incorporated areas over the rollback millage rate.

According to a statement, the county is required to increase the millage rate in order to balance the budget and stop spending its reserve funds.

Two previous public hearings, held July 17 drew concerned citizens who supported and were against the hike.

Resident Elaine Smith said the increase would represent an 81 percent increase in her property taxes.

“That’s a hard pill to swallow,” Smith said at the first hearing.

Mike Bearden, who previously ran for county commissioner, said an “unchecked” budget is the cause of the county’s fiscal problems and more effort should be put into lowering taxes, not raising them.

‘It’s time for tough love to be administered,” Bearden said.

County Administrator Peter Olson, who gave a presentation outlining the need for the rate change at the hearings, said the county has exhausted all options in finding ways to cut spending, without sacrificing services to residents.

Olson said the county tried several expenditure reduction efforts which included reducing payroll by more than 50 employees, no raises for five years, 12 days furlough for five years and deferred vehicle and equipment purchases.

Olson said the county has spent more than $5 million of its reserves in last two years and an increase in the millage rate is necessary to maintain a healthy fund balance.

Olson said the proposed millage rate is 1.95 mils higher than the current rate of 7.73 for residents living in incorporated areas of the county and that the “net change” of the mill is actually 1.9 mils.

Olson said for the average homeowner that increase is about $8.31 more a month, based on a home worth about $125,000.

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