County raises taxes by 1.75 mills

Published 10:20 pm Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Decatur County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to increase the millage rate by 1.75 mills, for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

The county’s previous overall millage rate was 9.91 mills, which included a 0.25-mill allotment to the Industrial Development Authority and the remaining 9.66 mills allotted for the general fund. Tuesday, the county voted to increase the overall millage rate to 11.66 mills.

First, there was a 1.5-mill increase to the general fund’s original 9.66-mill rate, changing it to 11.16 mills. Secondly, there was an additional 0.25 mill allotment added for the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority, which will be used to help pay off a 20-year $3.1-million loan to make improvements at the county’s wastewater treatment plant. The 0.25-mill allotment will continue for the IDA, resulting in a total millage rate of 11.66 mills.

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The county passed the millage rate change by a 4-2 vote. Board Vice Chairman Frank Loeffler and Commissioners Dennis Brinson, Jan Godwin and Dr. David C. “Butch” Mosely voted in favor of the increase, while Board Chairman Russell Smith and Commissioner Oliver Sellers voted against it.

Prior to the vote, Mosely made a motion to increase the overall millage rate to 11.41 mills, which would have been an increase of 1.5 mills. However, his motion died for lack of a second.

In advertisements notifying the public of the proposed millage rate increase, it was stated that the total increase would be 1.5 mills. This was also the consensus of the board members, after the completion of seven budget workshops held in recent months.

However, recently the county was notified that it would be rejected on its GEFA loan application unless it separately allocated 0.25 mills just to pay for that loan. Rather than taking the proposed 1.5-mill increase and splitting it into 1.25 mills for the general fund and 0.25 mills for GEFA, the county instead voted to add on the 0.25 mills as new tax.

A mill is roughly equivalent to $1 of tax on every $1,000 of valuation for property.

The county also approved a 15.99-mill rate for the Decatur County Schools, which is the same as the millage rate that was in effect during the last fiscal year.

The start of the fiscal year was July 1, and it will continue until June 30, 2014.

Millage rate increase could be invalid

Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, County Administrator Gary Breedlove also told the board that its millage rate increase could be declared null and void by the state.

Breedlove explained that there may be a problem with the size of the public advertisements published in The Post-Searchlight to notify the public of the budget process. He said that the advertisement needed to be at least 30 square inches, but it was not that large.

Breedlove noted that it was not an error on the newspaper’s part, and that the county had used the same size advertisement last year without any issue.

He said that the county may have an opportunity to appeal, but if the state decides its advertisements were illegal, then the county may have to start the process over again. It would have to readvertise the millage rate increase, and hold three more public hearings that would also have to be advertised.

“I believe we have an opportunity to appeal and show that we had no ill intent,” he said. “I think our wisest move is to continue with our actions today.”