The Board of Commissioners had a public hearing during its last meeting on potential changes to millage rate based on three preliminary budget options presented by Cherokee Chief Financial Officer Janelle Funk. No residents came to speak.
During a meeting in June, Funk laid out three budget options for the commissioners to consider, with one option resulting in an increase in the millage rate and two others leaving the county with a rollback of 0.06 mills.
This would bring the rate down from 9.999 mills to 9.939.
Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens said Friday that he expects the board will vote on lowering the millage rate, though he would not speculate on the outcome of the vote, “as that would be out of line with our practice.”
Like Commissioner Brian Poole and Jason Nelms, Commissioner Harry Johnston has said openly in recent weeks that he was leaning toward voting to lower the millage rate.
But Johnston said Friday the potential decrease in the millage rate won’t necessarily mean a lower bill for everyone.
“The small cut in rates will actually just hold taxes constant for the average property owner,” he said. “With two offsetting exceptions, that’s what we’ve done for the general operations tax rate for the last 12 years.”
Johnston said the decrease is meant to keep the tax rate the same when property values are taken into account.
In this method, which attempts to keep the rates neutral, an increase in property values means a decrease in the millage rate to compensate, and a decrease in property values is countered with an increase.
In 2012, the Board of Commissioners voted to increase the millage rate 0.86 mills in an effort to remain revenue-neutral as the digest had decreased from $7.78 billion to $7.23 billion. The 2012 digest has now increased to $7.4 billion.
Johnston said it’s good to be able to see the values go up.
“For the last few years, it’s worked the other way,” he said. “I’m glad to get back to increasing values and decreasing rates.”
Ahrens said the options to lower the rate puts Cherokee County in a good position, or at least better than some counties.
“Earlier this week, Douglas County announced that it would raise millage rate by some 30 percent, from the 9-mill range to (about) 12 mills,” he said. “Wouldn’t want to be in their shoes.”
Also, during the Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday, the board will:
• Consider approving a contract with CW Matthews Contracting Company for construction on the Towne Lake Parkway and Rose Creek Drive resurfacing project for $1,901,794;
• Consider approval on a construction contract with Georgia Development Partners in the amount of $1,287,396 for projects at Barnett, Dwight Terry, Sequoyah and Weatherby parks. $103,400 also is being requested for contingency;
• Consider accepting a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development CDBG funding agreement in the amount of $975,232; and
• Consider the benefits committee recommendation to lower employee health insurance premium costs 10 percent for fiscal 2014 at an estimated cost of $275,000. This would be paid with insurance and benefit fund reserves, which now sits at $1.3 million. It’s estimated the reserves will be $1.8 million Oct. 1.