COVINGTON, Ga. - The Covington City Council voted to keep its 2017-2018 fiscal year millage rate the same as the previous year at 7.654 mils in a called meeting Monday night.
The millage rate, which was advertised in The Covington News: Newton County’s legal organ, as a tax increase will result in a $6.84 increase per $100,000 house because of an increase in property tax assessments. The millage rate is actually the same rate it was last year.
The city had the option of accepting the rollback millage rate, which would have kept tax bills the same dollar amount as the previous year but would have appeared as a decrease at 7.483 mils.
City Manager Leigh Anne Knight said the difference in revenue for the rollback rate and the approved rate is $107,365 for the city.
“I’ve gone back and forth and back and forth and back and forth on this,” Councilmember Josh McKelvey said. He said he attended a taxation class in the recent Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) Annual Convention and spoke with other officials who presented negative opinions of the rollback rate. Continually going with the rollback rate caused them to implement a larger tax increase down the line.
McKelvey said he is typically against any sort of a tax increase.
Councilmember Chris Smith agreed with McKelvey and said the city needs to look at cutting expenses.
“That’s what I hear from more people, and I’m sure all of us do, about we spend so much money in the city,” he said. “And although the millage rate is staying the same, it is an increase in what people are paying tax-wise to the City of Covington.”
“As far as I’m concerned, and this is just my personal opinion, we’re actually not increasing taxes,” Covington Mayor Ronnie Johnston said. “I am fully aware of what that same percentage that we had last year applied to the values this years does increase some of the expenses, I understand that, but I’ve always in my mind – at least as I’ve learned since 2012 as to move forward – is one of the ways for government to legitimately increase their revenues without always taking it off the backs of taxpayers was to increase the values of their communities, which is kind of what happened.
“So, to me, it’s almost like this is the way we should grow our base and make it more solid.”
Smith was the only opposing vote against the 7.654 rate.