Thursday, May 6, 2010

Millage rates & public hearings

Under certain circumstances, Georgia law requires public hearings before a change to the property tax millage rate can be adopted. News from Muscogee County (Columbus, Ga.) provides a good illustration of this. Muscogee’s school board, which oversees one of the biggest school districts in the state, recently proposed a millage rate increase of 1 percent.

If the Muscogee Board of Education had decided to keep total school tax revenues constant, they would have had to lower their millage rate (assuming their total property values have increased since the prior year’s digest). In that case, they could have simply adopted the lesser millage rate at any public meeting.

But if a taxing authority (school board, county commission, city council, etc.) decides to increase the millage rate, as in the case of Muscogee, or even hold the rate steady (which would lead to an increase in total taxes if total property values had risen), then they must hold three public hearings to give taxpayers a chance to speak their minds. That’s why Muscogee’s school board has already scheduled and advertised three meetings.

You may wonder how total property values can increase in the midst of a statewide freeze. Well, the freeze does not apply to new property developments and improvements to existing property. That means that city and county values could rise leading to roll-back rates that would require taxing authorities exceeding the roll-back rate to hold three public hearings first.

Judging from comments on the Columbus Ledger Enquirer about the Muscogee school board’s decision, many taxpayers down there will take advantage of the opportunity to participate in those hearings!

Chatham County (including Savannah), which also runs one of the biggest school districts in the state, is also considering a millage rate increase for its school system.

No comments:

Post a Comment