Wednesday, October 5 2022

MILTON, Ga. — Milton City Council’s third and final public hearing to set the property tax rate was a heated and drawn-out one.

After nearly a dozen residents pleaded for a full rate cut to a level that would closely match their tax bill from last year, council members voted Aug. 15 to strike common ground. , voting 5-2 to fix the rate at 4.469 mils. . Council members Rick Mohrig and Jan Jacobus cast dissenting votes.

“How angry are we going to make the community tonight? Councilman Paul Moore asked. “Am I driving you crazy at 4.2 or really crazy at 4.4, when both are really savings?”

Board members had the option of approving the capped rate of 4.731 mils – the same as last year, the midpoint rate of 4.469 mils or the decline rate of 4.206 mils.

Deputy City Manager Bernadette Harvill pointed out that homeowners will save on taxes thanks to the floating property exemption which caps the reassessment of property value at 3% or the home price index. consumption, whichever is lower.

Only those who qualify for the basic homestead exemption (a deduction of $15,000 from assessed value on the municipal tax bill) may qualify for the floating exemption. The deadline to apply was April 1, but Fulton County is already accepting applications for next year.

“We live in a big city where we’re debating how much we’re going to lower our property taxes,” Mayor Peyton Jamison said.

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The median rate allows the city to maintain the same level of services when the cut would have required budget cuts, city officials said.

There is also the question of what surplus the city would have with a reduced rate. By law, the city must keep 25% of subsequent years’ revenue in reserve, Harvill said.

Mayor Jamison backed the median rate, saying it would allow the city to fund some of the projects in the Global and Strategic Plans that have been supported over the past few years.

Even in hindsight, some of the budget initiatives would still be covered, Mohrig said.

City Manager Steve Krokoff confirmed that council has the power to determine the level of service found in the city’s overall and strategic plans.

“In times of uncertainty, what is essential?” Mohrig asked.

Jamison said the board will discuss the budget at an upcoming meeting.

Some residents shouted in disagreement when “intermediate pointers” voiced their opinion on the matter. Some of those same residents said “amen” out loud when Councilman Jacobus explained that you don’t have to raise tax revenue to enjoy driving on rural roads.

“To me, it’s a philosophical thing,” Jacobus said. “The idea behind Milton was to grow slowly and steadily, but to be able to keep it small.”

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Residents said many initiatives on the budget proposal are unnecessary, particularly various staff positions that are not “one-time” – new positions that would be recurring costs.

Cutting taxes too deep could affect more than the workforce, Moore said.

Speakers uttered the term “fiscally responsible” repeatedly throughout the public comment portion of the hearing.

Councilor Carol Cookerly praised the residents in attendance for doing their civic duty, but pointed out there were others to consider.

“There’s another 40,000 people in the city, and the ‘I want’ list has grown exponentially,” Cookerly said.

She alluded to a comment from Councilman Mohrig, who said the council “shouldn’t expand government at this time.”

“Is this really an expansion of government?” she asked. “Or are we just providing the basic services that people want? »

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