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.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – With August fast approaching, the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners (BOC) has officially approved the advertisement of their Millage Rate for the year.
Accepting the Rollback Rate at 6.898 mills, a 0.085 mill drop from the current 6. 983, the Commissioners will still realize a decrease of $119,582 between the two rates, according to Financial Officer Sandi Holden.
The Rollback Rate was not the first motion, however. Post Commissioner Dallas Miller first made a motion to maintain the current millage rate despite the state forcing them to call it an increase saying, “For the last five years… we have held that same millage rate constant. I like that and I believe that is some good history because we have fought the battle through the depression and recession and things… We have done what I consider the best job we knew how to do managing what money we get from our citizens.”
Miller went on to say there was only one reason to not keep the current rate. The same debate they have gone through every year at the time to set millage rate. The state forces the county to call it a tax increase even though they do not increase the rate.
Miller also noted that the Board of Commissioners and the Tax Assessors are separated on taxes. Miller made certain to note that even if the Commissioners accept the Rollback Rate, it doesn’t mean that no citizen will see a tax increase from their assessments.
Commission Chairman Charlie Paris countered with a similarly repeated thought over the past years when he said that if he did vote to accept what would be called a tax increase, he wanted it to be worth more than what this rollback represents.
As the first motion failed due to the lack of a second, Paris made a motion to accept the Rollback Rate. It was seconded and approved 2-1 with Miller being the dissenting vote.
While discussion did move to the possibility of lowering the Bond Millage with the improving economic health in the county, the official motion came to maintain the rate as it currently sits.
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – East Ellijay is continuing more than just property tax waivers for the ‘19-’20 fiscal year as they presented and approved their budget in June’s meeting.
Introducing the new budget, East Ellijay Mayor Mack West noted in his discussion that the ‘18-’19 budget did not need to take money from reserves to balance the budget as projected. The final financial reporting shows approximate revenues at $1,590,000 and actual expenditures at $1,380,000, leaving a $210,000 excess of revenue over expenditures.
Continuing into the next fiscal year, the council approved the waiver of solid waste, semi-weekly, residential curb-side pick-up fees city residents. According to a letter the West provided the council, “business and commercial entities use area contractors for waste disposal” and are not a part of the waiver.
Another item the city is continuing comes as a finish to last year’s budget. The council approved an $800 bonus to city employees, coming in July. Mayor West stated during the meeting that due to the diligence of employees and efforts to keep expenditures low, all employees would receive the bonus.
The bonus has been done for years, so many in fact, that council members could not remember exactly when the tradition began. Continuing the bonus still required the council’s approval,however, as is done every year.
West applauded the city’s staff in the letter saying, “All City Employees, including our many contract employees, are well trained, dedicated individuals with performance levels above and beyond expectations. As long as we have a good team and work together, we can provide the required services to our citizens without any property tax assessements.”
The letter also gave a statement on the city’s current financial status at the end of May 2019. With eight General Fund CD’s, the city holds $2,127,879.51. They also hold two SPLOST CD’s totaling $330,548.54.
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 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.
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