Moultrie Observer

Government

August 29, 2012

County holds millage rates at current levels

MOULTRIE — Colquitt County Commission kept millage rates unchanged for the budget year that began July 1, meaning that residents whose property values rose will pay more to the tax man in December.

Some of those affected showed up for the third hearing on the matter on Tuesday that preceded the vote on the millage rates for the county’s general fund, special tax district and Colquitt County School Board. The commission has no control over the school system’s millage rate but must approve it due to a legal technicality.

Commissioners Winfred Giddens and Luke Strong voted against keeping the millage rate the same as last year, with Commissioners Benny Alderman, Terry Clark, Johnny Hardin and Ray Saunders voting to leave the rate unchanged.

County Administrator Bryan Shuler said in an interview after the meeting that the overall impact of the decision is that the county should bring in about $300,000 more in property taxes this year compared to last year.

The county’s general fund budget for the current year is about $20.1 million, an increase of about 3.5 percent over the 2011-2012 spending plan.

Among those heard on Tuesday night was Nell Carroll, who said some of her rental houses had significant increases in value. Nearly all of the houses on Rowland Drive and Sunrise Avenue had modest increases, but some shot up in amounts of $14,000, $16,000 and $24,000, she said.

“I did think these on Rowland and Sunrise are a lot more than they’ve been being, and a lot more than what I could sell them for,” she said. “I know you’ve said just charge (tenants) more, but it’s kind of hard on them right now.”

Carroll said she could increase rent modestly on those houses that saw large increases in value, but would have to absorb some of the extra taxes herself.

“They’re probably in a tight spot too,” she said.

While those whose properties received a higher valuation will pay higher taxes, Saunders said that commissioners did not raise taxes.

State lawmakers put a freeze on property-tax increases for a three-year period, ending this year. Tax assessors kept up with changes during that time, but they were not applied to taxpayers’ bills.

“Part of this is it’s been three years since there’s been an evaluation,” Saunders said during an interview following the meeting. “Some houses went up, some went down and some stayed the same. (But) we did not raise taxes.

“I certainly didn’t want to see anybody put under pressure to pay more.”

Strong told fellow commissioners that he could not vote to increase taxes on constituents who are having a hard time in the sluggish economy.

“First of all, I talked with a lot of people in my district,” he said. “People are struggling. I had a lady calling me about the $3 garbage increase. She said that $3 is like $300 to her because she’s on a fixed income. People are struggling.”

Strong recommended reexamining the budget with an eye toward cutting “fat.”

“Things are tough, people don’t have jobs,” Giddens said. “These people are in a tight spot.”

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