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Promoting Honesty in Taxation in Georgia

Dekalb Commissioners Propose Budget Without Millage Hike

Commissioners reject a budget proposal by the county CEO that included a substantial tax increase:

A county budget committee passed the proposal Thursday. It includes an almost a 9% spending reduction for most county departments. Commissioners also called for a close to 4.5% reduction for public safety. Commissioner Elaine Boyer says commissioners on committee rejected the CEO’s plan because a millage rate increase is unreasonable in the current economy.

WABE: Dekalb Commissioners Propose Alternate Budget Plan (2011-02-18)

Paulding Bungles Budget Hearings; Citizens Denied a Voice

On August 10, the Paulding County Commission approved property tax rates to fund the FY-2011 budgets of the county and of the school system. While the school board held its millage rate steady, the County Commission approved a 14.3% increase in the M&O rate, from 6.65 to 7.60 mills.

On August 24, the Commission held a public hearing on the new budget; it is proposed to be approved at the Commission’s September 14 regular meeting.

“Hold on!” (I hear you, a mathematical millage rate advocate proclaim…) “You can’t know what the millage rate should be until after the portion of the budget that must be funded by property tax dollars is established! How can you approve a budget after approving the tax rate to fund it?”

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Catoosa to Raise Taxes to Court Costco, Pay Back With Sales Tax

We got a little ink in the Chattanooga Times-Free Press this week when we were contacted about a deal that Catoosa County in north Georgia put together for Costco:

Under the contracts agreed to Friday, the county will buy the land slated for Costco for $4.8 million, spend $4.5 million to improve it and then sell it to Costco for $4.8 million.

To bring the retailer to their county, Catoosa proposes to raise the millage rate to generate the $4.5 million, but offset the increase with sales tax pennies from their Local Option Sales Tax (LOST). County officials have told taxpayers that it will essentially be a wash… no cost to them.

There are several things wrong with the proposal, not the least of which is the notion that the sales tax will completely offset the taxpayers’ obligation. Sure, the LOST (which must be used for millage rollback) may offset the tax increase, but exactly who will be paying that penny sales tax at Costco and other county merchants? Right, the property owners.

In essence, the property taxpayer will be “paid back,” to a certain extent, the tax increase with his own sales tax pennies.

Chattanooga Times Free Press | County balances cost of Costco

Property Tax Returns Up in 2010

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting that property tax appeals are up in 2010:

The filing period opened in January and already Gwinnett County has received more than 3,400 residential and commercial tax returns, said Steve Pruitt, the county’s chief appraiser.  He expects a total of 15,000 to 20,000 and said he’s hiring data workers to process all of the returns.

Property tax returns start to add up and it’s still early  | ajc.com

Reassessment Leads to Revolt in Hancock County

Of course, you know our solution. Require taxing authorities (cities, counties, school boards) to “do the math.” As assessments increase, the millage rate must decrease, simply as an operation of the math, as long as the politicians hold the line on the cost of government services.

Hancock County, GA is typical in a state where very few politicians even understand the millage rate process:

The county historically had a high millage rate, but very low property assessments. Hill said the assessments are now in line with surrounding counties, but with the high millage rate, taxes have soared.

Local tax revolt in Hancock County  | ajc.com