The Henry County Board of
Commissioners held a public meeting at 6:00 p.m., on Monday, July 12, 2004, in
the Community Room,
Leland Maddox, Chairman, presiding
Gary M. Freedman, District II Commissioner
Jason T. Harper, District III Commissioner
Commissioner Holman made a motion to accept the agenda as published; Commissioner Harper seconded; and the motion passed by a vote of 3-0, with Commissioners Freedman, Harper and Holman in favor.
Chairman Maddox announced the purpose of this meeting is to hold a public hearing on the millage rate. Mr. Pipkin provided a handout to the Board and audience members.
Mr. Pipkin stated the purpose of this meeting is as follows:
“The Tax Assessors put a value on property. They put, supposedly, a fair market value on each piece of property. Anything that is reappraised is existing property that they may change the value on. Growth happens to be something new. You cannot have new land, so it’s going to be somebody puts in a swimming pool, somebody finishes a basement, may add a room onto their house, they may build a house, they may build any structure; that would be growth. Something that’s new that did not exist. Reappraisal is taking the house that was here and changing the value.
“The State law says that if you reappraise property, whatever percent you reappraise that property, you have to lower the millage rate by that same percent or have hearings so that the public will know why you are not lowering that millage rate by that percent. As an example here, 11.24 is the unincorporated millage rate. To lower that to 11.162, we could have done that and not had the hearings and each area has that same example. So, if they are not going to lower the millage rate because of the budget, then they have these hearings.
“The School Board is also having these hearings. I was at one of their hearings this morning. They had a hearing at 9:00 this morning, so they are doing the same thing again tonight at 6:30. By going through that, does anyone on the Board or anyone in the audience have any questions about the process and why it exists?”
Commissioner Freedman stated “our property taxes are too high, but millage is what is being discussed tonight. He said the School Board gets 65% of the property taxes. Out of that remaining 35%, 2 mills goes to the Water Authority to service bond debt, 1 mill goes to the Hospital for indigent care. That bond debt is court-tested situation, people have challenged that in the past, it has been court-tested, it is valid because they expand our water and sewer based on growth, based on bonds they issue and have to service that debt and, therefore, that is bond debt that requires 2 mills of that. So out of $1,000 in property taxes, we get less than $300. That does not pay one policeman’s wages for one week much less parks, roads, senior center, libraries, more roads, more roads, all the things we do in the County including your police, fire and all the things we have to do. So our property taxes really are not our salvation. When it says we raise the millage, in fact, we did not raise the millage but as Andy Pipkin said, because of the fact the millage stayed the same in effect, it is a raise. So they have to, by law, and the law is very specific and he does not have a choice on how he can word it when he advertises it in the paper. Last year we did not touch the millage at all and he still had to advertise that we raised the millage because the law requires that. It certainly does not look good for us because, in fact, we didn’t raise it, but I will tell you frequently the School Board has the authority to raise millage in order to cover the cost of schools and they do, and we don’t have any say in that. Basically the School Board has the right to assess millage.”
Commissioner Freedman said he gets
this “question all the time. I’ve been
sitting up here eight years and I’ve been hearing the same question for about
six of the years when they changed the law to say you have to say you raised
it. That’s two of the issues. The third issue is appraisals. By law our Tax Assessors must go out and
appraise property. Four years ago I sat
in a meeting at the State level to find out why we have to appraise property
all the time and, in fact, very little property in
Mr. Pipkin said each mill is worth $4.7 million. He said once millage rates are set by the Board, $51 million, which is a $4 million increase from last year, will be levied. He said this is the least increase the County has had in several years, so there was less reassessment this year than in the last several years.
Ms. Judy O’Riley,
Commissioner Harper stated last year the millage rate was 11.24 and the millage rate this year is 11.24. He noted the tax rate did not go up, but there have been increases based on property reassessments. He said the law says we average them out and roll the millage back, so if the reassessments go up, the millage must be cut a certain amount to offset a tax increase. He said rolling back the millage will not ensure all taxes go down because of disproportionate assessments. He said it is hard to cure the inequity.
Commissioner Freedman stated he has heard from many people their assessments are higher than they could sell their property. He asked Ms. O’Riley if she appealed her tax assessment. Ms. O’Riley said she successfully appealed two years ago. Commissioner Freedman said the Tax Assessors usually use comparables when assessing property.
Commissioner Harper said for two years
the Board has sent a Bill to the Georgia General Assembly asking that the tax
values be frozen at current levels. He
said several counties in
Mr. Harley Lowe,
Commissioner Harper explained the
current millage rate in
Mr. Dan LeMay stated he agrees with
Mr. Lowe’s comments. He said he moved
here three years ago and his assessment has increased $10,000 and $20,000
during the last three years consistently.
He said the increased assessment, water use increase, plus the School
bonds and stormwater fee, are unfair. He
said he will have to move out of
Commissioner Freedman stated police and fire services have been increased. He noted one ladder truck costs over $1 million. He said road improvements are requested every day.
Mr. LeMay asked whether the commercial
Commissioner Harper said the formula previously was for every $1 paid in residential tax, the County provided $3 in services; and for every $3 in income earned from a commercial business, the County only provided $1 in service. He stated commercial establishments bring in far more money than they use in services.
Mr. Mitchell Green,
Commissioner Holman said the Board
adopted a budget earlier this year which was based on the increase in the
digest. He said the millage is being
held constant. He said if the Board
would adopt a budget like last year, the millage rate would have to go
down. He said because of the growth,
citizens pay more taxes and the Board spends more. Mr. Green asked why
The Board thanked the approximately 25 people in the Community Room for attending this meeting.
Commissioner Holman made a motion to adjourn (6:58 p.m.); Commissioner Harper seconded; and the motion passed by a vote of 3-0, with Commissioners Harper, Freedman and Holman in favor.
Leland Maddox, Chairman