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Porterdale poised to lower millage rate
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While other cities and Newton County have raised their millage rates, the Porterdale City Council is actually planning to lower its rate, a move it hopes will help counteract the water rate increase it had to implement earlier this year.

The City Council is expected to vote to lower its millage rate – known colloquially as the property tax rate – from 19.892 to 19.392, based on a recommendation from the city’s budget committee, which said the city would still be in good financial shape despite a lower rate, City Clerk Megan Reid said last week.

The owner of a home valued at $20,000, not including a homestead exemption, would pay $159.13 in Porterdale taxes currently; that bill would be reduced by $4 with the millage rate reduction.

Porterdale is an exception among local governments in seeing its overall property values increase. The value of the city’s properties increased from $15.91 million to $16.19 million, the first increase since 2009. As with Newton County and cities like Covington and Oxford, Porterdale experienced significant declines in property values since 2009, when total values were $29.78 million.

The city would collect $279,811 in taxes on property and vehicles if it didn’t change the rate, but the city was only budgeted to collect $268,716 last year and did fine, Reid said. The city significantly raised its millage rate in 2010 and again in 2011, but did not increase the rate last year.

City Manager Bob Thomson said the city has taken a lot of cost-cutting measures in the past couple of years.

In addition, Thomson said the city’s collection rates for its water and sewer bills are higher than in past years. The city struggled with unpaid water and sewer bills for years but increased its deposits for customers with bad credit ratings.
Reid said the city has a good office crew that doesn’t let bills get too far behind.

Earlier this year, the city was required to pass 55-cent increases to both its water and sewer rates, in order to satisfy requirements for a U.S. Dept. of Agriculture loan for a sewer project.

The new rates for residents are $7.59 for 1,000 gallons of water and $8.12 for 1,000 gallons of sewer. The new rates for businesses are $8.24 for 1,000 gallons of water and $8.83 for 1,000 gallons of sewer.

Reid said the city had also had a lot of real estate sales this year, including a few sales in which the properties were behind in taxes.

When a property has outstanding property taxes, the city can place a tax lien on the property, which must be paid before a property can be sold.

The council is expected to vote on the millage rate at its regularly scheduled Aug. 5 meeting.

Porterdale is on a calendar budget year, but still passes the millage rate in the summer after receiving updated property values from the Newton County Tax Assessor’s office.

Porterdale’s 2013 budget was $955,574 for its general fund, $624,758 for its water and sewer fund, and $113,156 for its sanitation fund.

Through June 30, the city had already collected $519,033 in general fund revenue, 55 percent of its total budget.