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Posted: June 18, 2010 12:30 a.m.

Porterdale City Council discusses increasing millage rate up to 4 mills

On the heels of the Newton County Board of Commissioners approving a rollback millage rate to offset a budget shortfall, Porterdale City Council members discussed increasing the town’s millage rate in order to continue offering services at the present level.

Porterdale will need to amend their 2010 budget in order to balance it after the total assessed value of homes in Porterdale decreased 32.27 percent from 2009 to 2010 — leaving a budget hole of $103,617.22 for the remainder of FY10.

At Tuesday night’s work session, the council discussed a rollback rate and increases of 2, 3 and 4 mills. The town’s current millage rate is 9.156. A rollback rate, or a millage rate that would allow the town to collect the same amount in property taxes as it did the year before even though the net digest is down, would be 13.518 mills.

City Manager Bob Thomson presented figures to the council at Tuesday’s work session and reminded them that the city has changed health insurance plans to save money, has not filled two positions in the public works department and needs two more police officers based on the town’s crime rates. Police Chief Wayne Digby confirmed that according to a formula devised by the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, Porterdale was operating two officers short. 

"The budget is not fat is basically what I’m trying to say," Thomson said.

Thomson said each mill increase over the rollback rate generates around $17,000 more a year. His initial presentation was for a 2 mill increase, which he said would cost the average homeowner $2 to $5 extra a month.

Councilman Robert Foxworth asked what 3 and 4 mill increases would look like because he and other council members want the city to pay 80 percent of employees’ health benefit premiums rather than the 60 percent they currently pay as well as be able to hire more police officers.

Thomson presented the council with a cross section of real assessed values of homes in Porterdale so they could see the impact of increased millage rates on homeowners. A home on Magan Court with an assessed value of $36,467, on the high end for Porterdale, would pay $145.87 more than last year at a 4 mill increase. A home on Ivy Street with a low-end assessed value of $10,485 would see a $38.16 increase over last year’s bill.

"A tax increase compared to the cost of a carton of cigarettes is not that bad," said Lowell Chambers, councilman.

Thomson said the council should be mindful of other increases, such as increased wholesale water rates the city will have to pass along, that residents will have to bear as well.

Mayor Bobby Hamby informed the council that Gov. Sonny Perdue had approved the council’s measure to implement a citywide Homestead Tax Exemption that will virtually erase any increases for primary homeowners. The exemption will have to be put on a referendum and voted on by the citizens of the town sometime later this year.

Councilman Mike Harper said the council needed to consider seriously an actual tax increase because economy projections across the country remain bleak.

"Don’t raise it just enough to get by," Harper said, "or we’ll have to do this again next year."

Councilman Robert Foxworth agreed adding that everyone needed to pitch in if they wanted their level of service to be maintained or improved. The council reached a consensus that a 4 mill increase would be advertised in The News, the county’s legal organ.

"It’s not five members of the council that are benefiting," said Chambers. "It’s the workers, the garbage collectors and police officers."

The council will hold three public hearings and approve the millage rate at their July 12 meeting.

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