The Ball Ground City Council approved the 2014-15 budget at its meeting Thursday, rolling back its millage rate from 6 to 5.625 mills to remain revenue neutral as the preliminary tax digest shows improvements in property value.
The total approved budget of $1.891 million is up 9 percent from last year’s budget of $1.732 million, with three major funds showing increases.
Ball Ground City Manager Eric Wilmarth said preliminary tax digest figures show an increase in property values for the first time in years.
“Our decline has stopped. After five consecutive years of declines in property values, we’ve actually seen inflationary growth this year,” Wilmarth said. “It would also increase our revenue over last year by $26,000.”
The 2015 fiscal year begins July 1.
The approved 2015 budget includes $679,960 for the general fund, the city’s main operating fund, up from $587,440 in 2014.
The city projects total general fund revenue near $680,000 — nearly a $100,000 increase from last year, the budget shows.
Based on budget documents, available on the city’s website, the main revenue increases came from property taxes, title and ad valorem tax and real estate tax.
Most general fund expenses remained steady, with a few significant changes, Wilmarth added in a budget memo to the mayor and council.
The most significant increase came from a parks and recreation contract for mowing and maintaining parks, with a cost of $42,000.
The only fund expected to decrease is the SPLOST fund, dropping from $356,020 to $354,520 in the 2015 fiscal year budget.
“The biggest reason for the reduction is the fact that sales tax is no longer collected on automobile sales,” Wilmarth added. “The ad valorem tax collected at the time of sales on vehicles is now paid into the general fund.”
The water and sewer fund budget increased from $698,675 in 2014, to $752,000 in 2015, matching the projected revenue for the next fiscal year.
“Overall we are anticipating an increase of $54,000 in revenue over the previous year,” Wilmarth added.
The solid waste fund increased from $90,000 in 2014, to $105,000 in 2015. The projected revenue for the solid waste fund matches the increase in the budget.
Wilmarth said the increased revenue in the fund comes from an increased customer base.
The council unanimously approved the fiscal 2015 budget, which begins July 1 and ends June 30, 2015, with Councilwoman Andrenia Stoner absent.
The first reading of the budget was passed at the council’s April meeting, and no one commented during the public hearing.
Ball Ground will have to advertise a big tax increase because of a change in the way fire tax is collected, even though residents won’t see in increase in their millage rate.
“Our residents aren’t going to pay any more than they’ve been paying,” Wilmarth explained.
Mayor Rick Roberts explained the change as a “tax shift.”
The county will no longer collect taxes for fire services, and instead the same tax will now be billed by the city.
“Cherokee County is no longer going to list the fire tax on the county tax bill,” Wilmarth said. “It’s going to show as the city of Ball Ground fire service.”
The change in the way the fire tax is collected means the city is legally required to advertise a tax increase, according to the state Department of Revenue, Wilmarth said.
“Our residents have paid this millage rate for years, ever since I’ve been involved with the city,” Wilmarth said, adding that the only difference is who collects the tax.