BOC Advertises 2019 Millage

News

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.

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Tax Assessors Roll Back Decision on Elderly Tax Exemption Changes

Board of Assessors, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Tax Assessors voted to roll back their recent decision on House Bill 1383, which was given the green light during their meeting held on Thursday, June 20, 2019.

This bill ultimately determines what structures on a property are exempt for those 65 years of age or older in regards to the Gilmer County school district ad valorem taxes.

The board did as they informed the public they would do and got advice from Attorney Joe Scheuer of the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia regarding the interpretation of the law.

In a three-page document to the board, Scheuer stated that “I believe this question involves a determination that must be made on a case by case basis locally”, but went on to say that “Homestead includes the following qualifications: The actual permanent place of residence, where the building is occupied primarily as a dwelling. In other words, with respect to the home, the exemption is limited to that structure so that attached structures are included; garage, deck, etc. Other structures, such as detached garages, gazebos, etc. are not included. Detached structures, to my knowledge, have never been included as part of the building which is occupied as the primary dwelling, or at least they were not supposed to have been included.”

However, because what this attorney says differs from what the state legislative liaison has said on the matter, County Attorney David Clark believes the board needs an opinion from the attorney general.

Ultimately, due to the two conflicting readings and two entirely different opinions as to how the tax code should be implemented, the board voted in favor of rolling back the decision to uphold the new changes, continuing with the way things were in 2018 until the board receives further clarification.

The issue with this decision, as the board pointed out, is that structures of business such as chicken houses, barns, etc. will be exempt of the school system taxes as they were in 2018.

But because of the deadlines involved, the board decided it would still be easier just to go with the 2018 interpretation without modification.

No further public mailings are required on behalf of the board because of this decision.

The board will be re-examining the definitions of the bill in the near future and hopes to have a definitive interpretation by 2020, so be sure to stay tuned for future updates!

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Newly-adopted bill ignores certain structures from elderly tax exemptions

Board of Assessors, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – House Bill 1383 was the topic of much debate during the Board of Tax Assessor’s meeting on Thursday, June 20, 2019.

Up until adoption of this bill, those who were 65 years of age or older were exempt from paying the Gilmer County school district ad valorem taxes on their property.

This is still in place. However, this no longer exempts structures that are not considered to be the primary dwelling place of the property owner.

As Chief Appraised Theresa Gooch explained, the interpretation of this bill “Does not include any buildings not attached to the primary residence. It still exempts 100% on the primary home, all of the land and any structures that are attached by a common roof line.”

In short, structures not attached to your home by the roof line are no longer tax exempt.

This would include structures such as wood sheds, barns, out houses, green houses, etc. Whereas in the past, all structures on the entire property were exempt.

According to County Attorney David Clark, “the state is the entity that has guided the board to the specific definition as to what constitutes a homestead.”

The board explained “No one here was associated with the implementation of this bill in ’08. But it was implemented simply by applying the exemption to anyone over 65 who applied for appeals and asked for a homestead. Chicken houses, business’, etc. things that clearly didn’t belong in a homestead were caught up in it. The chicken houses and business’ were cleaned up shortly after that ’08 thing. I don’t even recall what brought this to our attention. But the law says under the definition of the state statute that the dwelling is the exempt item. The land and the residence.”

When asked why it took so long for the board to bring this up, they responded that they honestly weren’t sure, and that it just didn’t come to their attention prior.

Many citizens present were very against this change, however.

Many are concerned that the board simply wants nothing more than to tax them more, with one citizen stating “My neighbor has the same roof line. He has a horse barn. Now we’re not taxing it because it shares the same roof line? What’s next? I move my daughter in the basement, now I’m not occupying it, she is, so you’re going to tax my basement for that? That’s where we could go if we continue to let you erode our rights here. This isn’t right. Let’s stay where we’re at. Manage the money we already give you, and not try to take more away from us. It’s difficult enough as it is living on a fixed income.”

The board voted in favor of this bill under the grounds that they have no choice at this point in time due to digest and submission process timelines.

However, citizens have until Monday, July 1, 2019 to file an appeal with the board, which will likely go to the Board of Equalization and potentially the superior court.

The board also states that they will re-address this issue and give full clarification from the proper state authorities by Tuesday, January 1, 2020.

Stay tuned for developments on this bill as they become known!

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BOE budget rises in 2019

News
Gilmer BOE 2019

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Final approval for the 2020 Tentative Budget came this week with the vote by the Gilmer County Board of Education (BOE).

The board approved its $44 million budget unanimously after the last two months of work. This budget will be a $1,674,852 increase over the FY19 budget (as presented in June 2018). This is also a $4,852780 increase over the FY18 budget (as presented in June 2017).

Looking back over the past budgets since 2016, tuition costs alone have increased by between $500,000 to $600,000 each year except this one, showing a $1,456,345 increase since last year.

The budget also estimates  $3,060,919 of expenditures over the Board’s revenue, further draining the board’s fund balance, estimated to sit at $14,839,081 in June of 2020. However, in some previous years, such the 2017-18, these expenses turned out to fall closer to even than predicted as the tentative budget expected to fall to $19.4 million, but actually only lost around $100,000 by fiscal year’s end.

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Tax Tips! with Beth Bennett: Filing Deadline is April 15th

Announcements, Business

Beth goes over the penalties associated with not filing by the deadline and educates the viewers on IRA’s vs Roth IRA’s.

Tax Tips! with Beth Bennett – Deadlines Are Approaching

Business

Beth and Crystal join the show to give an update on the tax season and talk about upcoming deadlines.

Auto-Renewal will go forward with Chamber Contract

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – A not-unexpected turn of events saw the Board of Commissioners (BOC) strike the two items from their agenda on Thursday that involved an Audit and a Contract Termination for the Gilmer Chamber.

Despite this, it doesn’t mean the end of this issue between the two entities. With both sides having agreed that the Hotel/Motel Tax usage by the Chamber is required to have an audit, and moving forward imposing that requirement, a major issue is being resolved. However, it doesn’t mean that citizens won’t be hearing about the issue again in coming sessions.

As Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson stated in their work session, she is wanting to look deeper at the Chamber, the date of the automatic contract renewal, and the Hotel/Motel Tax split. Though most of the discussion at the work session centered on clarifying “if” and “why” a termination would be required to renegotiate the contract and look at some of the expectations from both parties, the lasting issue is still persisting.

Chamber President Paige Green provided a prepared statement on behalf of the Chamber which asked them to reconsider the termination. But much of its points also addressed the issue of changing the split. One sentence stated, “Defunded or reduced funding towards those efforts or even extended negotiation period without resolution will have immediate and long term effects on the great work that has been done to bring us to this point in time.”

Her statement also reaffirms the Chambers commitment to “an open dialogue this year and to answer any questions you have in regards to our efforts.”

The commissioners did not vote down the termination, however. As previously reported in “Chamber Contract in question at BOC,” Ferguson stated several times during the work session that she thought termination was the only way to renegotiate the contract with its pending automatic renewal. Instead of voting down the termination, all three commissioners unanimously approved an agenda change to remove the items from the agenda with the clarification that it was agreed that the audit was required and would start being provided.

This leaves the state of the Gilmer Chamber in a flux of moving forward with an automatic renewal schedule to take effect next week, but knowing that 2019 will be a year in review as the Commissioners look closer at the Hotel/Motel Tax and the Chamber in general.

Ferguson noted during the work session that the Gilmer Chamber holds one of the highest Hotel/Motel tax split-percentages in the state. It was also noted by several chamber members and chamber board members that the Gilmer Chamber was also noted by people across the state as one of the best and most effective chambers.

As both entities move forward in the year, the discussion of the underlying issue will arise. For now, the preamble comes to a close avoiding what Commission Chairman Charlie Paris said would have been “a very, very serious mistake for Gilmer County.”

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Chamber contract in question at BOC

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – With the vote still set to be made, current indications are saying that the Gilmer Chamber may dodge a termination of their contract with the Board of Commissioners (BOC).

The vote is set for tomorrow’s, January 10, Regular Meeting agenda. The subject matter, however, is a layover from the recent months when former Post 2 Commissioner Travis Crouch began questioning the Hotel/Motel Tax Split during the 2019 budget process. Now, new Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson has taken up the banner to continue the discussion and added an item to the agenda for termination of the contract.

“I’m just asking for time,” said Ferguson as she explained that she fully respects the Chamber and what they have accomplished but feels that something is wrong. Stating that she wants the time to look into the Chamber further before an automatic renewal date comes next week, Ferguson did later clarify that it was her understanding from legal counsel that termination was the only way to renegotiate the contract.

With nothing short of an uproar of concern from present Chamber Members and Board Members of the Chamber, a heated debate began regarding the impact and possible outcomes of a termination of the contract, even if later renegotiated. Several citizens commented on the subject including Chamber Board Chairman Trent Sanford who noted that negotiations could come without termination. He also noted an occurrence when this happened three years ago when the contract was renegotiated without a termination.

Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlie Paris noted that he was adamantly opposed to terminating the contract.

Post 1 Commissioner Dallas Miller was more in favor of changes to the contract, but did note he wanted to find a way to do it without terminating the contract.

Ultimately, it’s not even clear if Ferguson will push the issue of termination as she repeatedly stated she thought that was the only way to renegotiate the contract with its pending automatic renewal.

Citizens may not need to wait long into the meeting to find out, though, as Paris said he felt the issue was resolved and would be seeking to remove the item of contract termination from tomorrow’s agenda while leaving the item regarding Chamber audits and discussions of contract renegotiation open.

Both entities, the BOC and Chamber Board, agreed that the contract did stipulate that Hotel/Motel Tax Audits be done. The Chamber stated they have already begun the process to adhere to the imposing of that contract requirement.

Follow FYN as we go deeper into the subject’s details after tomorrow’s vote at the 6 p.m. public meeting open to all citizens.

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