During budget workshops in recent weeks, the council has discussed increasing the city’s millage rate from 6.8 in 2013 to a little less than 8 mills for fiscal year 2014 in an effort raise the budgets for multiple city departments.
Should the millage rate be set at 8 mills, Canton residents would see a $50 increase for every $100,000 in the value of their home. A homeowner with a house valued at $200,000 would see a tax increase from $544 to $644 over the rate from 2013, prior to exemptions.
The increased budget would be about $200,000 more for the Canton Police Department and raises for all city employees.
Perhaps the most talked about increase within the fiscal 2014 budget, though, is the proposed hiring of nine new firefighters for the city fire department, a feat that would cost that taxpayers about $500,000.
Councilman Hooky Huffman has been among those calling for hiring the fire department employees and said Wednesday that he still planned to support the measure for the safety of
“Cherokee County and Canton have been growing, and we have got to increase the service,” he said. “You’ve got to have people to deliver the
But Huffman added the city might not end up hiring all nine firefighters, which would bring down the level of tax increase.
“I don’t care if it’s three, six or nine,” Huffman said. “I just want to deliver a better service.”
Mayor Gene Hobgood, though, said the new employees aren’t needed, especially since the council’s plans to build new fire stations have mostly gone by the wayside.
“We have a good fire department,” Hobgood said. “There is no need to increase the number of firemen by 33 percent in one year. We need to think about the homeowners and the businesses in our city who will be hit hard with this tax increase.”
Hobgood added that the overall tax increase was not necessary.
“We need a reduction in spending and not an increase in property tax revenue,” he said. “In the future for additional revenue, we should be looking at increased user fees for specific services and other sources of revenue such as the rental car tax which was rejected by the council. User fees are only paid by the user of a service. Property tax increases are paid by homeowners and businesses alike who may not necessarily gain any additional services.”
But Huffman said considering that the city hasn’t increased taxes to combat inflation for several years, the time has come for an increase.
“Do we need a tax increase? The answer is yes,” he said. “We’ve been sitting back not doing anything and not maintaining a neutrality in our revenues. We have got to start increasing taxes to a point where we can catch up with the other cities and municipalities around us. They all have been going up. We have not.”
“Raising taxes is not about catching up,” he said. “It’s about matching the essential needs with the revenue you have to work with. What happens when a homeowner’s income is suddenly or drastically reduced? That homeowner’s family cuts back and spends less money. The city has to do likewise.”
Huffman said it’s easy to simply brush off a tax increase as poor governing, but he’s looking at the future of Canton.
“Can we get by without a tax increase? Well sure we can,” he said. “People are looking at short term fixes and that’s what gets you in trouble.”
Huffman added that a large portion of the revenues from the proposed tax increase would be going to raises to city employees, who haven’t had a raise in several years.