ATLANTA – Half supported and half opposed the millage rate increase of the Paulding County Board of Commissioners during their standing-room-only public hearing at 10 a.m. on August 24 about the proposed budget of Commission Chairman David Austin.
The commissioners are expected to vote on the $106 million budget during their 2 p.m. meeting on Sept. 16 instead of their regular meeting day on Sept. 14.
On Aug. 10, three of the five commissioners voted to increase the millage rate for the second consecutive year – this time by 1.22 mills 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 were Austin and Commissioners Wayne Kirby and Tommie Graham. Opposed were Commissioners Don Powell and Larry Ragsdale.
Both Kirby and Graham said taxpayers actually will be paying less. County Administrator Mike Jones said, “If I give you $1, then decide to give you only 15 cents, you’re still getting a savings.”
Jones said nearly 60,000 parcels will decrease in property value by at least 3.8 percent. Another 38,000 parcels had no change in value, he said, and 722 parcels had an increase in value.
“If you’re paying less taxes, isn’t that a tax decrease?” Graham asked the standing-room-only audience on Aug. 10.
A Douglas County resident but a Paulding County business owner, Roy Sparks said, “That don’t compute in Alabama arithmetic that your taxes are going down while your millage rate is going up.”
After organizing a community meeting at a Dallas, Georgia park on Aug. 19 to protest the millage rate increase, Sparks returned to Tuesday’s meeting with a petition bearing around 300 signatures and supporters opposing both the millage rate increase and the budget proposal.
Tom Milanese of the Paulding Pundit blog also presented a petition with about 300 signatures. Both Sparks and Milanese urged the commissioners to make more drastic cuts “into the lean” – in the same way many residents are having to do as they face unemployment and foreclosures.
On the other side, several community leaders from the Paulding Chamber of Commerce, the new Paulding Economic Development Organization and the City of Dallas, including Austin’s brother Mayor Boyd Austin, spoke in favor of the millage rate increase.
In Paulding this year, the owner of the average $150,000 house will pay around $70 more in property taxes, Paulding Finance Director Tabitha Pollard explained. Last year, the owner of a $150,000 house had to pay around $75 more plus lost a $150 state credit from the Homeowners Tax Relief Grant.
Yet Jones and both Austins still maintain county residents will pay less in November since their property valuations have gone down. Pollard says that decline amounts to around 17 percent for 60,000 of 64,000 parcels.
Kirby explained that the millage rate increase might have to be three or four mills higher next year if the commissioners had passed no millage rate increase this year – especially if property values continue to decline.
Austin has published his 53-page budget proposal online.