Some Georgians still have time to stop higher property taxes

Writer’s Note: Higher costs of groceries, gasoline, and housing, along with higher interest rates, have forced Georgians to get by with less money in their bank accounts. At the same time, rapidly rising home values are boosting government revenues while increasing property taxes…unless local governments adopt the “rollback rates” that keep taxes the same from the prior year. 

Below is a sampling of what’s happening in certain cities and counties around the state.

Richmond County: Richmond County residents have three opportunities to discuss the county school board’s proposed property tax increases.

“The board announced Monday its intention to increase the 2023 property taxes it will levy by 10.67 percent over the rollback millage rate,” according to WRDW

“The hearings are scheduled for Aug. 22 at noon and 6 p.m. and Aug 29. at 5:30 p.m. at the Board of Education building.” 

Centerville: The City of Centerville has announced a tentative increase in property taxes by 12.20 percent, which would set the millage rate at 10.364, which, according to WMGT, is higher than the rollback rate.

“The tax hike would result in a proposed increase of approximately $45.08 for a homestead property with a fair market value of $100,000,” the station reported.

“Non-homestead properties with a fair market value of $200,000 would face a roughly $90.16 increase.” 

Dougherty County: Dougherty County homeowners’ might pay higher property tax bills because their homes are worth more now vs. this time last year, per a decision from Dougherty County commissioners.

“Most homeowners will only see an increase of a few dollars,” according to WALB.

 “That’s much better than last year when property taxes went up more than $133 per $100,000 worth of home. The county is keeping the same millage rate as in 2022.”

The station expects .57% over the rollback mileage rate for the countywide district. 

Augusta:  In Augusta, members of the Administrator’s office and the Finance Department are recommending that city leaders adopt the rollback tax rate, which would represent a 16% reduction in property taxes. 

“The administrator tells commissioners even though the rollback rate helps property owners, it hurts city coffers, costing more than half of a million dollars in revenue, which has commissioners saying in future budgets, the city will need to look at cutting expenses,” said station WJBF

The final vote on the roll back rate is scheduled for August 29, according to the station. 

Oconee County: Late last month, Oconee County Board of Education members approved a new millage rate of 15.0 mills for fiscal year 2024.

As reported by the Athens Banner-Herald, board members have reduced the milage rate five times since fiscal year 2013, from 18.5 to the current amount.

“The tax increase for an owner-occupied home with a fair market value of $500,000 is about $258,” the paper reported

Catoosa County: As reported by the Catoosa County News, the 2023 millage rate was 7.348 mills. 

Board members are scheduled to adopt the 2024 budget during a special called meeting at noon on Aug. 22. 

Coweta County: The Coweta County Board of Education voted 7-0 this month to lower the 2023 school system property tax rate to 15.41 mills. 

“It was the fourth year in a row that the board has reduced school system millage rates in response to rising tax digest values,” according to the Fayetteville-based Citizen. 

“However, the reduction still results in a 9.5% increase in total property taxes collected in Coweta because of increased value of taxable property.”

The Coweta school board lowered the school maintenance and operation (M&O) tax rate by 0.59 mills. That is down from 16.00 mills set in 2022, the paper reported.  

“The board also set the property tax millage for bond debt at 0.00 mills, since the school system operates without capital project debt,” the Citizen reported

Houston County: Houston County residents may have to provide additional money to their county government now that the average home there has increased in value. 

As reported by WMAZ, county officials want to make the millage rate 5.46% above the rollback rate.

“To keep the county’s property tax revenue the same, the county could roll back the millage rate to 9.066 mills and maintain the same amount of property tax revenue. That means a homeowner who has a house worth $150,000 would have to pay $544 in property taxes under the rollback millage that would keep county property tax revenue the same,” the station reported.

“But under the county’s proposed millage, that same homeowner now would be on the hook for around $574, or about $30 more. But the county says that the budget approved by the Board of Commissioners would need to be higher than that rollback millage to keep the county funded.” 

Cherokee County: Cherokee County commissioners this month slightly reduced property tax rates.

This, after higher home values this year caused homeowners to have higher increases in assessments than normal, according to the Cherokee Tribune and Ledger News. 

“The board unanimously voted to set the largest share of the overall rate, the county’s maintenance and operations portion, at 4.954 mills, under the originally advertised rate of 4.985 mills. The rate is reduced from the current M&O millage rate of 4.995 mills,” the paper reported.

“The board set the county’s fire millage rate at 2.764 mills, and its parks bond rate at 0.319 mills. According to Cherokee County, a home valued at $475,000, which had a homestead exemption freeze filed in 2015, would see a property tax bill showing $614 in county M&O tax, $525 in fire tax and $60 for the parks bond, for a total BOC-controlled tax bill of $1,199.”

Commissioners also ratified the millage rates set by the Cherokee County Board of Education in June: 16.45 mills for operations and 1.5 mills for bonds. 

Bulloch County: Bulloch County Board of Education members are scheduled to gather later this week to vote on a proposed fractional increase, 0.242 mill, in the rate of county property taxes used for funding the schools.

“That increase alone, from a school tax rate of 8.236 mills last year to 8.478 mills, is a 2.9% rate increase,” according to the Statesboro Herald. 

“But when compounded with inflation in real estate values as determined by the county Board of Tax Assessors staff, the resulting proposed increase in property tax for school maintenance and operations is 16.07% on average, so that is the percentage stated in the formal notices required under the Georgia Property Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.”

Board members are expected to vote on the millage rate during a specially called meeting at noon Aug. 18, the paper reported.

Elsewhere in Bulloch County, taxpayers have complained about a proposed 1.5 mil increase to hire more public safety officers, give county employees a raise, and add new infrastructure connected to Hyundai and its supplier companies.

“Some property owners say the tax increases are too much all at once,” reported WTOC.

“Others said the county should not have given industries tax abatements that homeowners have to absorb.”

Walker County: Walker County commissioners will vote on a proposed millage rate rollback that is intended to lessen the impact of higher property appraisals. 

“Another year of surging home sales increased property values an average of 30% in Walker County,” according to AllOnGeorgia.

“The Board of Commissioners proposes to roll back the millage rate used to calculate property taxes to the lowest point since 2012 to balance taxes associated with higher property values. However, due to another year of substantial growth, the new millage rate will trigger state requirements to advertise a minor property tax increase.”

The proposed millage rate of 5.735 mills in the unincorporated area represents a 16% reduction over 2022 when the rate was 6.8283 mills. 

The Walker County Board of Commissioners proposes a millage rate 6.22% above the rollback rate of 5.399 mills in the unincorporated area. 

“The increase of 0.336 mills will generate an additional $10,537 in property tax revenue over last year,” AllOnGeorgia reported. 

Two of three scheduled public hearings to discuss the matter have already taken place. The third is scheduled for 7 p.m., Aug 24 at the Walker County Courthouse Annex III. 

“The proposed millage rate for a home with a fair market value of $225,000 would result in a property tax increase of $29.54 in the unincorporated area, which is about $2.46 per month,” according to the website.

“Owners of that same home living in an incorporated area would save about $157 annually, since the proposed incorporated rate of 7.390 mills is less than last year’s rate of 9.853.” 

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