District 1 Commissioner Henry Mitchell III noted commissioners approved the spending side of the budget in December but had to wait until recently to see how much revenue would be available through the tax digest. Commissioners are considering a property tax rate increase of almost 3 mills to balance it.
“Quite a bit has been spent,” Mitchell said. “To go backwards would be tough.”
Commissioners are scheduled to meet Tuesday, at 10 a.m. in Citizen’s Hall of the Courthouse, 8700 Hospital; Drive, for a public hearing and a final vote on the millage rate.
The recently-released tax digest decreased in value by only about 1.5 percent rather than 4 percent as county officials assumed when writing the budget, said District 4 Commissioner Ann Guider.
“Revenues are better than even I expected,” said Guider, a former longtime county tax commissioner.
Guider and Mitchell in December voted against passing the budget, which was approved on a 3-2 vote. The county works on a fiscal year which begins on Jan. 1 rather than July 1 which many other governmental entities use. The board of commissioners must approve a millage rate by Aug. 1.
Mitchell and others in December publicly said a tax increase likely would be needed for the $89.4 million budget, which was an increase from $73.4 million in 2012. Though almost 47 percent of the budget goes to public safety, much of the 2013 increase was for road projects and maintenance county residents requested, commissioners said at the time.
The District 1 commissioner said he supported a separate plan to put a series of bond referendums on a future ballot – which is a better way to pay for such projects as road paving rather than through property taxes, he said. A total of $6.5 million is included in the budget for road paving.
The board is considering at least one bond referendum of $10 million to purchase a digital radio system for the sheriff’s department. They also are considering referendums for parks and recreation improvements and fire department equipment.
A bond referendum would allow voters the choice of issuing bonds to pay for a specific capital project. Mitchell said it would allow them to directly decide if they want the county government, for example, to pave and maintain roads in the coming year rather than leaving the choice of funding sources to elected officials.
Guider said the commission is awaiting Gov. Nathan Deal’s decision on calling a special election to permanently fill the clerk of court position following the death of Rhonda Payne earlier this year. A special election will cost about $100,000 and commissioners want to avoid having to pay for two special elections, she said.