ELLIJAY, Ga. – A unanimous vote this week from the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners (BOC) gave final approval to put a new tax of TSPLOST to public vote in the new year as they prepare to address Roads and Bridges issues.
The new tax will be a TSPLOST (Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) specifically designed to bring in new funding to address the 501 miles of paved roads within Gilmer County that the county is responsible for paving and maintaining.
Citizens have been debating this issue in earnest since November 13 when a Roads and Bridges town hall meeting turned to a TSPLOST discussion after Commission Chairman Charlie Paris put the idea forth saying he could not find any alternative to address the issues as quickly as people have been wanting. However, the discussion has been going in the BOC since budget sessions and talks of shrinking the contingency fund in late October and early November.
This week, the Chairman said that the recent Post 1 Commissioner campaign really “stirred the pot.” The campaign highlighted an issue that many people understood that progress was being made slowly. Now, people are getting more vocal about the issues. Paris said, “And they’re right. We need to do something about this.”
The board appears to agree that raising the millage rate to fund the roads is completely out of the question. Instead of raising the taxes of the millage rate, a new TSPLOST tax is coming forward to be voted on by the public.
As discussion from the work session continued on the TSPLOST, the commissioners discussed the difference between the TSPLOST and continuing as-is. The major note came to be speed. Paris has stated several times since November that he believes the progress will continue as they strengthen the road department. Paris said this week that a TSPLOST will allow us to accomplish over the next 5 years what we will accomplish over the next 25 years.
Also mentioned in the meeting, Paris said he believes the option of bonding the TSPLOST is out. He explained that if approved the county will pursue rights of way, begin collections that are allocated quarterly, and citizens would really see a big effort increase in the Road Department by Spring of 2021. In fact, Paris said later in the meeting, “If these folks approve this TSPLOST, I am going to be paving in the Spring of 2021.”
This discussion also restated Paris’ desire to switch future projects in the county to start bidding out asphalt paving projects across LMIG and new projects and having the Road Department continue with tar and chip and other roads.
County Attorney David Clark urged the commissioners to continue talks in the coming months to focus and list all possible projects for the TSPLOST as the discussion has ignored the bridge issues in the county, many of which have come from failures in the maintenance of those bridges
Paris clarified that while they have not been specifically mentioned, thoughts for bridges has definitely been on his mind.
Still, Clark said the board should get their projects set and details set before the county puts the option on the ballot for public vote as the public needs to know everything possible and everything being considered in a TSPLOST.
With approval to be put on the ballot done, many questions are still out there on the topic. Paris mentioned wanting more town halls on the TSPLOST for specific regions of the county to ‘go to the people.’ He explained that he wanted to make it far easier for those in the local area to attend and discuss the topic, holding four different meetings in four different sections of Gilmer.
Additionally, estimated collections are still to be calculated and details worked out for the coming vote.
Newly elected Post 1 Commissioner, Hubert Parker also spoke in the meeting saying, “You’ve identified the situation and the options. SPLOST is the only tax I know of where the voters have a direct voice rather than going through an elected representative. So, I think it’s up to them…”
ELLIJAY, Ga. – After the August meeting of both the Board of Commissioners and the Board of Education, the commissioners reconvened for final approval for the collection of both millage rates in Gilmer County.
The Gilmer County Board of Education approved its Rollback Rate of 14.248 mills generating $16.8 million according to estimations by Gilmer County Financial Officer Sandi Holden. This rate was approved unanimously by the Board of Commissioners for collection.
The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners approved its Rollback Rate of 6.898 mills generating about $9.7 million according to Holden. This rate was approved 2-1 by the board with Dallas Miller being the dissenting vote.
The Commissioners then approved the 1.5 mills bond rate for the county generating about $2 million according to Post Commissioner Dallas Miller.
The bond millage was called into question by local citizen Joene DePlancke who noted the county’s growth and bond refinancings that the county has done.
DePlancke said she wasn’t speaking in opposition to the 1 mill bond rate, but rather the extra half mill added later. She went on to say, “I think it is unfair to the citizens of this county to keep telling them you have to have [1.5 mill] for the bond payments when we collect more than enough from SPLOST to cover the refinanced bonds.”
Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris told DePlancke that the 2017 bond payment was significantly less due to the refinancing at the time. With that refinancing, that year’s payment was reduced, allowing the county to use the extra funds, but also having that payment show far less.
Paris went on to point out that the bond payments are continuing to increase as well. Both 2019 and 2020 will see increases. Holden said the 2020 payment is expected to total just over $4 million. The payments over the last few years could not be looked at, according to Paris, as a measure of what they will be going forward.
Paris also noted that the Commissioners had a discussion in their August meeting about reducing the half mill on the bond millage, but decided to keep it as the payments are increasing as well as facing major issues such as the leachate leakage at the county landfill. Paris said the commissioners ultimately decided to wait and revisit the idea of removing the half mill next year. Additionally, while the county could continue forward without the half mill and maintain the needs for bond payment and this landfill issue, they would have to abandon every plan and improvement planned for other areas like the road department.
DePlancke reiterated her concerns on the bond millage saying, “You’ll always have a reason to spend it… There are so many things that need to be done, but you put it on there for bond payment. I feel like that is not honest to the citizens. You’re using it for other things.”
Paris said he didn’t agree that they would never give the half mill back, but asked what DePlancke she would have the county do, if they dropped the half mill, for the capital needs for the road department?
DePlancke responded, “You’ve got all the numbers there. I can’t answer that off the top of my head, but I’d love to have a crack at it.”
As discussion continued, Miller spoke as well, defending the bond millage. He said, “Our facilities, our infrastructure in this county. We’ve made progress, we’ve done improvements, but they are getting very old relative to their life. The buildings, the roads, everything needs capital improvements to keep them in good operating and maintenance level. We are facing, in the future, a large amount of renovation, and maybe even replacement, of our facilities that will only come from the capital budget that we have. And that money that goes to the capital budget will only come from the SPLOST collections, in my mind.”
Miller went on to say that he estimated $10 million in needs for the county in the coming 10 years just to keep the buildings and facilities at their current level. He said he didn’t want to wind up in the situation again where the county needed to borrow money or sell bonds. He said the commissioners didn’t have a choice but to maintain the path of maintaining and improving the infrastructure.
The board approved keeping the 1.5 mills, without raising or lowering, through a unanimous vote.
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – The city council of East Ellijay voted this week to formally adopt their 2019 tax year millage rate.
Mayor of East Ellijay, Mack West recommended the council reduce their millage from 3.5 to 3 mils. However, he also recommended a continuation of waiving all personal and business property taxes.
According to West’s letter to the council, “Property Taxes have not been collected in East Ellijay since 1976.”
Approval came in two motions as the city first unanimously approved the millage rate reduction. Then, the second motion approved the waiving of the property tax.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners held their Special Called Meeting in which discussion of the county’s Millage Rate and decisions were made.
Considered their calculations of accepting the Rollback Rate at 6.370, the generalized budget for the county would wind up relatively the same, with only a possible $10,000 difference over what they collected this year.
With the continued growth in Gilmer County, Post Commissioner Dallas Miller noted it was one of the bigger rollbacks he has seen. He also noted the Rollback Rate represented over $800,000 dollars in budget difference to the county.
The county has not increased or decreased its Millage Rate in several years, maintaining 6.983 in since 2015.
Miller suggested to the board that he believed they should continue maintaining the current millage rate. Repeating their same argument against the state directive of Rollback Rate and what is called a tax increase, the board as a whole agreed upon the unfairness of calling it a tax increase when they maintain the same rate.
Gilmer County Post Commissioner Travis Crouch commented on the rate saying they could “split the difference” and lower the rate slightly without going all the way to the Rollback. He went on to note that last year, the commissioners had to cut $2.5 million from the county’s initial proposed budget.
Crouch took a moment to ask Commission Chairman Charlie Paris how he felt this year’s budget would compare.
Paris responded by saying, “That we will probably have to cut a bit more. That’s been the trend.”
Agreeing with Paris, Crouch noted he held similar expectations. The board heard similar arguments from department heads including Public Works Director Jim Smith who noted the increasing costs in gravel and stone. Paris agreed, noting increases to diesel, gas, and salaries as well.
The opposing discussion came from Paris as he said he believes the biggest issue he gets calls on in the county is roads. However, looking at the choice between the services and taxes, he said he felt the citizens would be more dissatisfied with what is called a “tax increase.” He admitted that he was mixed emotions on the topic, but confessed he would come down on accepting the rollback.
Ultimately, as discussion began circling to repetition, a motion came from Dallas Miller to maintain the 6.983 millage rate. Crouch seconded the motion leading to a 2-1 vote with Charlie Paris as the dissenting vote.
The bond millage vote also approved maintaining the current rate with a unanimous 3-0 vote.
Moving forward on this decision, the board will begin advertising the rate before the formal public hearings on the millage rate, and then on to the final adoption.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – While considerations continue for Gilmer County’s 2018 budget, new changes and suggestions have been considered through the commissioners’ December meetings.
Some changes came with an expected increase in property tax revenue that was mirrored with a increase to contingency fund in relation to each other. While the expected increase is based on the current standing for property taxes in 2017, the commissioners decided placing the increase in contingency would allow for some extra room on the exact number fluctuation.
The contingency also further supports the back-up funds for buildings and maintenance that Gilmer County Post Commissioner Dallas Miller has been requesting as Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris tells FYN that contingency could be used for any unexpected expenses for repairs or other items.
Funding has begun being set aside for the Lower Cartecay Road Bridge as well. In the county’s capital budget, $250,000 was set into a line for the bridge repair. It was also later increased during their regular meeting to $350,000, pulling the extra $100,000 from added revenue in the capital budget from taxes.
The commissioners are still assuring the public they are actively pursuing a federal grant to repair the bridge. However, as the funding is not guaranteed, Gilmer County Post Commissioner Travis Crouch further urged these funds allocation.
As Miller brought the additional $100,000 in the Capital Budget to light in their regular session, his original recommendation was to use the funds to support capital purchases for the public works department. Crouch responded saying, “Since we have a bridge that’s been out for nine months or so, it should go there until we nail down alternative financing.”
Crouch went on to confirm that as soon as they could confirm the grant funds or other means of financing the $1.2 million project, he was in agreement with Miller’s suggestion.
Pursuing an increase to financing for the public works department, Miller had previously made suggestions as to accomplishing that during their work session saying the county is behind in providing roads and bridges for public works as public safety in whole gets three times the funding as public works.
While initially stating he wanted to increase the percentage of the budget that public works receives, Miller specifically stated he wanted to take a flat number out of the public safety budget and move it into the public works. Miller later mentioned $200,000 as a number.
Paris took a moment to say that he had repeatedly cut all the departments under the public safety budget and could not feasibly see any possibility of further cuts.
Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson adamantly opposed the suggestion saying the department didn’t have it. Nicholson told the commissioners that he is already going to lose staff because he cannot give raises to everyone. He further commented saying they would be the lowest paid Sheriff’s office in the Appalachian Judicial Circuit starting Jan. 1.
Nicholson vehemently defended his current budget after major cuts adding that issues continually arise in the county that affect his budget. Referencing a couple of medical issues that have arisen, he noted major expenses that came through errors at other areas.
Nicholson also noted, “I have not increased my deputies staffing, my patrol staffing, probably, in ten years.”
Furthering the discussion, Gilmer County Public Safety Director Tony Pritchet added, “If we cut anything out of ours, it’s going to have to come out of salary and wages. And you can take two to four hundred thousand dollars out of the revenue this next year because we won’t be able to handle the transports we have from the hospital.”
Pritchett also noted that the revenue each year for the emergency services offsets about half of their budget. He noted strain on their salary and wages already and any more cuts would make the work load unsustainable.
As Miller responded, he noted the great work public safety, as a whole, has accomplished, alongside the major needs of the county’s infrastructure. While Paris spoke about the strides the county has made in public works in the last couple years, Miller noted the strides they still need.
Gilmer County Public Works Director Jim Smith also spoke against the suggestion saying although he appreciated the acknowledgement of the needs public works has, he didn’t feel it would accomplish anything to improve public works at the detriment of public safety.
Smith stated, “I don’t feel like that you take from the gains that you have made in other deficient areas to give to another.”
Smith went on to comment on the progress his department has made saying that in his 16 years with the county, public works has been treated better in recent years than it has ever been.
While this specific suggestion never came to approval, Miller alluded at the regular meeting that the $100,000 in the capital budget, which he agreed to be put into the Lower Cartecay Road bridge project, would be returned towards public works investments as funding for the bridge was obtained.
Commenting on the budget, Chairman Paris called it a “bare bones” budget for its departments.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners met Thursday, Dec. 21, for final approval of their 2018 budget before the new year.
Before the official vote, the commissioners presented a couple of final clerical notes to the budget where they changed language on one item to reflect the money allocation. The board changed a Public Works line item to phrase its project as lift station and/or scale as Public Works Director Jim Smith brought to light a recent issue with one of the solid waste department’s scales. In need of repair or replacement, this could preclude the lift station project from next year’s budget. Additionally, Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris added an item in the capital budget for an upgrade to the county’s digital storage and the 146 gigabyte share of the county server they have. The server does not have sufficient space. Therefore, an upgrade to storage was already included in the allocated money, but Paris stated he had not listed it as an item.
None of these items actually changed any money allocation or lines of the budget.
Citizens speaking at the meeting brought up discussion on items for the budget in the county. Gilmer resident Joene DePlancke asked about the county’s golf course funding and revenue. Paris offered that this year represents the first year that the course is standing alone, meaning revenue will be equal to expenditures. However, it was also noted the “break even” did not include capital expenditures for the facility. Still, the commissioners noted confidence that the facility is continuing its progress towards a revenue generation for the county.
Citizen Dan Meadows commented on the county’s work session and Gilmer County Post Commissioner Dallas Miller’s comments about the budget and funding for Public Works versus Public Safety. Seeking alternative paths to funding, Meadows questioned possibilities to utilize SPLOST or grants for employee funding. Much of the citizens’ input revolved around the conversations of funding raises and employee retention while avoiding inter-department tensions or funding re-allocations as mentioned in the county’s December work session. Additionally, DePlancke suggested utilizing volunteers throughout the county when possible.
Citizen Donald Patrick echoed the same sentiments stating the county needs to keep good people in these departments. He noted the issues with training and paying an employee but losing a potential employee to neighboring counties who may offer $1000 to $2000 more in pay.
Commissioners confirmed to those present that no additional changes had been made to Public Safety after the suggestions, and Paris reaffirmed previous comments about the progress the road department had made through capital funding in recent years. Find out more on the topic and discussion with “December meetings continue commissioners’ budget conversation.”
Final approval came for the 2018 budget with a motion from Gilmer County Post Commissioner Travis Crouch and a second from Miller.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – With discussions upcoming on the 2018 proposed budget, citizens are taking a closer look at the finances.
FYN has also delved deeper into a more detailed look at the 2018 Proposed Budget.
First, a comparison with the current standing of the 2017 budget will show the most general changes as the 2018 proposed Maintenance and Operations (M&O) budget at $28,729,313.00, up from the current 2017 M&O budget at $27,037,174.00. While this represents an increase of $1,692,139.00, citizens will need to remember that the 2017 is still to go through final amendments at the beginning of next year when the final records and tallies are taken into account.
The 2018 budget is proposed at this point, allowing still for changes before final adoption, which is scheduled next week on Dec. 21.
The largest increases fall where expected in the largest departments. The Sheriff’s Office will increase $127,755 (2018 total: $3,406,009). Roads/Bridges will increase $214,023 (2018 total: $1,522,758). 911 Dispatch will increase $111,017 (2018 total: $918,140). Fire and Rescue sees the largest increase without comparison at $221,517.
However, as citizens look at smaller departments, increase seem be just as large relative to current budgets. Tax Assessors will see a $77,523 increase. While this may seem a smaller number, comparing it to their previous 2017 budget of $780,086 represents almost a 10 percent increase. The Tax Assessors Department was among those asking for raises this year as they have seen a higher than average turnover rate for employees in the past who, similar to other departments, find better financial opportunities elsewhere. While, usually, assessors have different levels based on knowledge, experience and training, Commissioner Chairman Charlie Paris has previously stated the raises this year are being spread in an attempt to bring up the lowest paid employees in the county, not just individual departments.
Additionally, Probate Court will see a $60,880 increase (2018 total: $373,222), and Solid Waste will see a $68,013 increase (2018 total: $787,992).
Another major change comes in from Elections. Considering the coming federal, state and county elections in May, possible run-off in July, November and another possible run-off in December, the $97,030 increase is not unexpected over the 2017 budgeted $33,442. The 2017 year had no county positions up for election.
One department saw a major decrease in budget. The Parks and Recreation Department will see a $57,449 decrease (2018 total: $606,172). Having recently lost an employee, the department decided not to replace the person. While not all of the decrease is attributed to this loss, the majority is accounted through payroll as well as benefits and healthcare.
While these changes are not fully approved yet, the meetings set for Wednesday at 8 a.m., Thursday at 5:30 p.m. and Thursday at 6 p.m. will have time set for citizens to speak about the budget to the Board of Commissioners. See more when you read “Commissioners comment on budget, cuts, and process.”
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Since October, the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners have been through hearings and meetings, discussing and reworking the county’s 2018 budget.
With last week’s publication, a balanced budget is now available for debate. But does that mean the budget is set and beyond change? No. While publishing the budget generally signals the final stages of the process, it does not mean you, as citizens, cannot speak, petition and urge further changes for the county’s budget.
In fact, Gilmer County Post Commissioner Dallas Miller specifically urged citizens to attend one of this week’s coming commissioners meetings. There are several chances to respond as Wednesday hosts their 8 a.m. work session and Thursday hosts both a public comments meeting at 5:30 p.m. and regular session at 6 p.m., . Even then, the final budget approval is not scheduled until next week, Dec. 21.
If no further changes or delays come, the commissioners are set to have their budget before the start of 2018. This means no need for a spending resolution for January. A resolution that the Board has used before, it stands as another sign of the progress Gilmer has made in recent years.
Gilmer County Post Commissioner Travis Crouch noted the M&O Budget (Maintenance and Operations) was and is the challenge in the budgeting process saying, “We’re going to be in a challenged financial situation.” Noting the challenges ahead, Crouch did say he believes the county has majorly improved financially in the last few years.
The county’s budget process stretches limited resources across the county and leads to tough decisions for the commissioners. Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris commented on one of the major changes to this year’s budget stating, “Our objective this year is to get those people on the very lowest levels of pay … and we’re trying to concentrate on those folks this year.” Paris was speaking on numerous departments asking for raises for personnel, attempting to keep our county competitive to others. Pay was mentioned several times in the process for attracting quality candidates for positions and keeping those here from leaving for financial reasons.
When questioned about sustaining the financial needs of these raises, Paris noted the county’s successes and increases in tourism and popularity to increase LOST (Local Option Sales Tax) rather than millage rates on property taxes.
Part of the county’s successes are exemplified in achievements like updating the county’s vehicle fleet, from road works machines to emergency vehicles in recent years. Also, maintaining a contingency fund for operating finances for the county is another concern. Growing the contingency funds could address issues like Miller’s concerns for building maintenance in coming years, but issues like that as well as the lower Cartecay Road bridge have yet to be given specific financial sources to address them.
While not specifically noted in the budget, the county is also utilizing its Tax Anticipaton Note (TAN) later into the year. Paris noted that he expects, with the county’s current progress, he could see Gilmer reaching a point in a few years for bidding a TAN but not using it. Though the first year in that situation may still bid the TAN as a back up, not using it would be the exemplification of the achievement.
Despite the positives achieved, the process of budgeting for Gilmer took in all requests for the county budget and saw a need for massive cuts. Much of the county’s offices and departments requesting raises will not see the full request fulfilled. The Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Management personnel already saw raises in the last couple of years. While the number of requests drove home the importance, the county’s finances could not support every increase. Paris tells FYN this is what leads to tough decisions for the county such as focusing on the lowest paid employees this year for raises.
A major concern from Post Commissioner Miller was noted as he stated, “What I am concerned most about this budget … We spend three times as much on public safety as we do on public works. Public safety is almost 50 percent of our budget.” Miller noted public safety as inclusive of departments like the jail, the Sheriff’s Office, Fire and Rescue, 911, animal shelter and others.
Miller’s aforementioned building concerns were also noted saying, “We have aging infrastructure in our county that is unsafe, that is falling down, that is deteriorating and needs to be updated. We don’t spend but about two and a half million dollars a year on the public works … It’s out of sync.”
Noting the infrastructure was among his major concerns, Miller stated he would be pushing harder to address this in the future.
Crouch and Miller both echoed notions that they expect further conversation and discussion on the budget. However, with the already advertised special called meeting next week on Dec. 21, the budget approval looks to be a major item at this month’s regular meetings.
The proposed budget is showing 25 departments increasing and five decreasing in total budget. However, Paris notes that most of the changes are less than five percent in either direction.
ELLIJAY, GA – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners have officially adopted the 6.983 Millage Rate.
The final vote came 2-1 with Chairman Charlie Paris being the dissenting vote. Later he told FYN there was very little difference between the Rollback Rate and current Millage Rate. “If we stick with the current rate instead of the rollback rate you have to advertise it as a tax increase. I disagree with that. I feel its not. So, my feeling is I did not want the people of Gilmer County to see that we are raising their taxes. I don’t like a tax increase… I wanted to set the Rollback Rate and move on.”
The official motion to adopt came from Post Commissioner Travis Crouch who stated, “I listened to the Special Called Meeting and both arguments and perspectives… At the end of the day, I find, at the end of the day, that the points that Dallas made are compelling in our situation. So, I feel like keeping the Millage Rate where it has been for the past two years is appropriate for our situation.”
This will make the third year in a row that the millage rate has been at 6.983. Previously, it sat at 7.224 before that.
After the motion was seconded, Post Commissioner Dallas Miller opted to comment on the action before votes were cast. “I hope that something as serious as this, as what we decide on property taxes, should not be, [sic] and I’m just going to ask the public to not make this a political issue. This is a financial decision we need to make. We need to do, to the best of our knowledge, what we think is best for our county.”
ELLIJAY, GA – Two meetings in July have tentatively set the tax future for Gilmer County.
The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners held a special meeting to discuss the Rollback Rate of 6.617 and the County’s decision on its millage. During the meeting. their discussion centered around a $291,048 loss to the budget if the Rollback Rate was approved. However, since the meeting, FYN has discovered that a recalculation could mean a drastically different number with the Rollback.
Commissioner Chairman Charlie Paris stated in the meeting that while he was used to Rollback Rates coming with a roughly $30,000 loss to the budget, but the nearly $300,000 loss would be a serious hit to the county.
Post Commissioner Travis Crouch made note of serious issues the County is still facing including rising insurance costs and the Lower Cartecay Road Bridge that needs replacing. Currently, Director Jim Smith has not been able to obtain additional funding for the bridge.
However, with the new information of a recalculated rate, a new meeting is being called for the Commissioners to revisit the discussion with the newer information.
On the Board of Education side, the calculated Rollback Rate suggested 16.24 as the Rollback Rate. Recommending the process to begin with advertising the rate, Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes said, after extended discussion with the Board, she was recommending a rate lower than the Rollback at 16.12.
As the meeting moved forward discussing the rate, the final vote came to approve advertising for the rate at 16.12. However, the vote split at 3-1 with Board Member Nick Weaver as the dissenting vote. Board Member Ronald Watkins was absent from the meeting and did not vote.
FYN caught up with Weaver to ask about his vote. Weaver stated, “I think it should be lower.”
With the lower rate, the BOE should see taxes decrease by $392,870 according to the Board’s documentation.
ELLIJAY, GA – After recalculations for Gilmer County’s Millage Rate, the Board of Commissioners came to another special meeting in July to re-discuss the Rollback Rate.
Commission Chairman Charlie Paris stated the newer rate of 6.850 was a “much more palatable” rollback. The newer rate could mean about a $5,513 loss to the County Budget.
Discussions continued with the Board of Commissioners debating whether a rollback rate was to be accepted. While all of the Commissioners agreed the Rollback Rate was far better than the original 6.617 representing close to $300,000 lost in the budget, they began speaking about the use of a Rollback Rate compared to the County’s continued efforts to increase the tax digest.
Post Commissioner Dallas Miller stated he didn’t want citizens to think a rollback meant lower taxes or that staying with the current rate meant higher taxes. However, continuing to use the Rollback Rate every year meant that any efforts to grow the county or the digest would effectively throw away all of the work of the county. He went on to say that just following the Rollback Rate “has the same effect as if we never even re-evaluated or re-assessed our property. Why did we spend a lot of time and money reassessing property and then throw that work away basically?”
Post Commissioner Travis Crouch mentioned that the difference between the Rollback Rate and maintaining the current Millage Rate was not a large amount of money, but also that Miller had not mentioned the increasing costs facing the county in the coming years like health insurance costs, personnel, and others that the county cannot necessarily control.
Chairman Paris agreed that the rollback was an issue with the county’s efforts to increase the digest, but he felt the amount of money in difference between the rollback and the current rate was not worth having to run advertisement, by law, as a tax increase.
With a motion from Travis Crouch to maintain the current Millage Rate for a third year in a row and a second from Dallas Miller, the Commissioners officially voted 2-1 to maintain the current Millage Rate of 6.983. Chairman Paris was the dissenting vote of the three.
The official action from the meeting will begin advertising for the millage rate so that citizens will have an opportunity to speak to the Commissioners before the final vote.
ELLIJAY, GA – Coinciding with the “Commissioner’s Discussion of the Millage Rate After Recalculation“, the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners have released the following documents informing citizens of the Millage Rate and their opportunity to speak at public meetings about it. Also, be sure to check out the Current 2017 Tax Digest and Five Year History of the Levy for more information on the Millage Rate and the Agenda for the Special Called Meeting on August 17 to see the final meeting planned for adopting the Millage Rate.
PRESS RELEASE ANNOUNCING A PROPOSED PROPERTY TAX INCREASE
Each year, the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners is required to review the assessed value for property tax purposes of taxable property in the county. When the trends of prices on properties that have recently sold in the county indicate there has been an increase in the fair market value of any specific property, the Board of Tax Assessors is required by law to re-determine the value of such property and adjust the assessment. This is called a reassessment.
When the total digest of taxable property is prepared, Georgia law requires that a rollback millage rate must be computed that will produce the same total revenue on the current year’s digest that last year’s millage rate would have produced had no reassessments occurred.
Gilmer County Board of Commissioners has made the decision to keep the 2017 Maintenance and Operation (M& O) millage rate at 6.983 mills which is the same as the 2016 millage rate. However since this millage rate exceeds the calculated rollback millage rate it is deemed a tax increase for 2017. Before the Board can set a final millage rate, Georgia law requires three public hearings to be held to allow the public an opportunity to express their opinions on the increase.
All concerned citizens are invited to the public hearings on this tax increase to be held at the Gilmer County Jury Assembly Room located on the 2nd floor of the Gilmer County Courthouse, 1 Broad Street, Ellijay, Georgia on August 10, 2017 at 5:00pm and August 17, 2017 at 9:00am and 6:30pm.
Notice of Property Tax Increase
The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners has tentatively adopted a Maintenance and Operation (M&O) millage rate which will require an increase in property taxes by 1.94 percent.
All concerned citizens are invited to the public hearing on this tax increase to be held at the Gilmer County Courthouse Jury Assembly Room on August 10, 2017 at 5:00pm.
Times and places of additional public hearings on this tax increase are at the Gilmer County Courthouse Jury Assembly Room on August 17, 2017 at 9:00am and 6:30pm.
This tentative increase will result in a Maintenance and Operation (M&O) millage rate of 6.983 mills, an increase of .133 mills. Without this tentative tax increase, the millage rate will be no more than 6.850 mills. The proposed tax increase for a home with a fair market value of $150,000 is approximately $7.71 and the proposed tax increase for a non-homestead property with a fair market value of $75,000 is approximately $3.99.
Several citizens and business owners from downtown attended the Ellijay City Council Monday night, October 17. They arrived to speak out on issues at the Council.
However, the majority were there not to speak about the 3.70 Millage Rate, but rather to return to discussion on the Downtown Boardwalk and Alcohol on it. With much discussion revolving around Bunk’s on the Boardwalk, one owner went so far as to say the lack of an exemption to allow alcohol on the Boardwalk was driving out business for her and she was close to closing her shop due to it.
This issue has been discussed since January of this year with a couple of Ordinances coming to proposal in an effort to solve the problem of the Boardwalk being considered City property. That said, current ordinances do not allow open containers on City Sidewalks, which the Boardwalk is considered to be. These ordinance proposals have yet to pass the council.
Discussion spilled over to the City Council’s September 29th meeting where the issue was once again brought up. Citizens began suggesting the meeting was not properly advertised to allow that topic as several of them did not attend the meeting. Standing upon that allegation, one citizen went so far as to request the Council void the meeting, which would negate everything done. The suggestions of mis-advertisement were strongly denied by Mayor Al Hoyle. However, the Mayor did instruct Attorney Kayann Hayden West to look into the advertisements to see if any errors had occurred.
Moving on with the topic, two final suggestions seemed to arise, with Councilman David Westmoreland offering a new look at an exemption for a smaller area of the Boardwalk, and another coming from the downtown Businesses offering to buy or lease the Boardwalk for their use. Though the suggestion hit a snag as such a sell or lease would need to be put to bid, it did not seem that those at the meeting were opposed to a bid process with one questioning if the council would prefer the local businesses if a bid process came with tie bids.
Still, other topics did arise during the Citizen’s Speak portion of the meeting as local Jeff Riblet questioned the council about any alternative options to raising the Property Tax to help the City’s Budget. Riblet suggested the possibility of a Municipal Sales Tax, or a city increase to Sales Tax, but Mayor Hoyle stated he was assured that the City did not currently have the authority for such a tax according to current state legislation.
Mayor Hoyle went on to say that though the Millage Rate was required to be advertised as a tax increase, it would actually bring in less money for the council. This occurs due to the change in Property Taxes and an increase in exemptions in the city. However, when you look at an individual’s taxes, though last year’s Millage Rate was 3.470, this year’s 3.70 rate would give a property valued at $100,o00 for a $14.28 increase.
The finance focused meeting also received a presentation from Matt Bidwell to offer options for the City’s Healthcare. Bidwell urged the council to take some form of action soon as Open Enrollment Changes for the City are due by November 4. Currently the City of Ellijay is a part of Blue Cross Blue Shield through GMA (Georgia Municipal Association). This Medical insurance is presenting a 14.03% increase for next year.
With the increase, Bidwell took the city to the Affordable Care Act’s Healthcare Market to find the lowest option for the City. This option was given by Humana for the city representing a 42.82% increase over their current plan. For employees of the City, the GMA plan’s Employee cost will increase from $32,332 to $36,868 as opposed to Humana’s option of Employee cost going to $45,134. Though the Council moved to approve continuing with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia through the GMA, they did not approve any Dental or Vision Plans. This hold of the other plans also was recommended by Bidwell to the Council.
Be sure to check out the details on this proposal below.
Holding their final two Public Hearings for the Millage Rate of Gilmer County, the Board of Commissioners listened as citizens delved into questions about the Rate.
Most of the questions focused on attempting to better understand the tax and assessing process including Mike King, who asked more questions from Tax Commissioner Becky Marshall and Head Assessor Theresa Gooch about his personal tax assessment drastically increasing.
Others expressed concerns on the increase, including Elizabeth Hunt who objected to the increase, but asked for the Commissioners to begin actively pursuing more conveniences for citizens. The Commissioner’s and she delved into a few specific possibilities including trash collection and the need for exact change at the county’s collection locations as well as publishing full copies of ordinances and changes on the county’s website for citizens who do not live close to the courthouse or cannot be in attendance of every meeting.
Another citizen, Jim Carr, spoke to the Board expressing his expectation that if the county is rejecting the rollback rate and increasing a half mill on the debt service, there should coincide a betterment of services the county provides. He noted his own road, Old Parker Place Road, falling into serious disrepair over the recent years.
Chairman Paris assured the citizens that the need for this Millage Rate would address these issues as he stated much of the county’s equipment, especially the Road Department, were in serious need of new equipment to provide the services the county needs. He further quoted one situation involving the county’s four dump trucks all being at least 19 years or older.
At their 3rd meeting of the day, the Commissioner’s did approve their 2016 General Maintenance and Operation (M&O) Millage Rate at 6.983, rejecting the rollback rate, as well as adding a half mill to the 2016 General Obligation Bond Millage Rate coming to 1.5 Mils.
Also approved was the Gilmer County Board of Education’s Recommended School Tax Rate at 16.62 Mils
In a special called meeting Monday, August 3, The Board of Education approved a rollback on its millage rate.
This was done in order to keep taxes from increasing or decreasing as the millage value had gone up. This issue will now have to be advertised for two weeks before the Board can finally adopt the change. They already have a planned meeting on August 20 to adopt this change.
Also in the meeting, the Board announced the Transportation Department will be operating out of the recently constructed Clear Creek Facility. They are setting up dry runs and are scheduled to be there as they begin the school year on August 5.
Gilmer County School Board faces a $1 million or more short-fall in next year’s budget, according to a presentation give to the board of education this week. (more…)