More than 600 citizens signed two petitions, opposing the Paulding County Commission’s millage rate increase during August 2010.
A community meeting was organized by a county business owner, preceding the Aug. 24 county commissioners’ public hearing on the $106 million budget, to garner support for this opposition and encourage people to sign the petition.
During the Aug. 10 public hearing on the millage rate, most of those in the standing-room-only crowd stood in opposition to raising the millage rate.
And it’s all my fault?
One of the county officials told me, after the Aug. 24 voting meeting of the commissioners, that it was all my fault for all of this opposition. His reason? As a freelance writer covering government news of that county, I wrote in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the millage rate increase was a property tax increase.
I know I sometimes carry a lot of weight but not that kind.
“They don’t know any better,” this county official told me. Or do the taxpayers actually know better – even without my choice of words?
“If I give you $1 and then decide to give you 15 cents, you’ve still gotten an increase,” he informed me.
“But then I wouldn’t be able to buy that candy bar I wanted,” I replied to which he gave me no response.
During the Aug. 10 public hearing, Paulding resident Tubby Toler said the same thing. “That’s $100 I can’t use.”
However, three of the five commissioners approved the 1.22 millage rate increase that day from 10.25 to 11.47. A mill is $1 for every $1,000 in assessed value, which is 40 percent of a property’s valuation.
In support of the increase, Commissioner Tommie Graham told the audience, “If you’re paying less taxes, isn’t that a tax decrease?”
Commissioner Wayne Kirby, another supporter of the increase, told me after the meeting that the millage rate would have to go up by 3 or 4 mills next year if it were left alone this year. I still don’t understand that logic – especially since county officials are predicting less of a decline in property values next year, meaning more revenue for the county.
In his proposal for the millage rate increase, Commission Chairman David Austin issued a more ominous tone in his 53-page budget proposal. Without the millage rate increase, he said the county would lose its AA bond rating, have to pay more interest and have to drastically cut services to the citizens.
This year the owner of the average $150,000 house in Paulding will be paying around $70 more to the county with the millage rate increase, said Paulding Finance Director Tabitha Pollard. In 2009, when the majority of the commissioners passed another millage rate increase, that same homeowner had to pay around $75 more to the county. He also lost a state credit, amounting to $150, from the Homeowners Tax Relief Grant.
Also during the Aug. 10 public hearing on the millage rate increase, County Administrator Mike Jones said almost 60,000 parcels went down in value by at least 3.8 percent; 38,000 parcels had no change in value; and 722 of 65,000 parcels increased in value.
We are among those who have seen our property value decline from $138,000 to $113,000 this year. So with the millage rate increase, we’ll be paying around $55 more that we would not have had to pay otherwise. We could have used that money to buy half a week’s worth of groceries – thanks to cost-cutting advice from Southern Savers.
Meanwhile, the commission chairman and the county administrator and a few other high-level county officials are keeping their six-figure salaries of a little more than $100,000, according to the 2009 Wage and Salary Survey of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. Even the four part-time commissioners are paid salaries of around $30,000, equaling a full-time salary for many of us.
Many of us aren’t doing all that well.