Board schedules public hearing on millage rate adoption
The Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners will hold three public hearings to receive comments on the proposed 2014 millage rates.
Two hearings will be held on July 7 at 11 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. and the third will be on July 14 at 6:30 p.m. All three hearings will take place in the auditorium of the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, also known as GJAC, located at 75 Langley Drive in Lawrenceville.
The millage rate adoption is scheduled to take place on July 15 at 2 p.m. Commissioners are considering adopting the same millage rate as last year, which will result in more property tax revenue than last year due to an increase in property values.
The Gwinnett County Tax Assessor calculates the total value of all property in the county, called the tax digest, by conducting annual property updates of residential and commercial property and issuing assessment notices to the owners, in accordance with state law. Reassessments reflect changes in the real estate market, including traditional sales as well as foreclosures. After five years of decline in the overall tax digest, many properties in Gwinnett County have increased in value. Higher sales prices and a marked decrease in the number of foreclosures provide evidence of the overall improvement in the real estate market.
When the total digest of taxable property is prepared, Georgia law requires taxing authorities to compute a rollback millage rate for maintenance and operations that will produce the same total revenue based on the current year’s digest that last year’s millage rate would have produced had no reassessments occurred. For 2014, the calculated rollback millage rate would be 6.90 mills. The proposed millage rate is the same as last year, or 7.40 mills, thereby requiring the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners to announce a property tax increase, even though no increase in the tax rate is under consideration.
Commissioners plan no change to the millage rates that were established in 2013 to support new service districts that fund specific government functions such as police, fire and emergency medical protection. If the county maintains the same millage rates, actual taxes levied on most properties should be approximately the same as the estimate of property taxes included on the assessment notices that were mailed in April. The proposed total millage rate for properties located in unincorporated Gwinnett County would remain the same at 13.75 mills.
During the period of the digest decline, Gwinnett County balanced basic needs with the resulting revenue losses. In 2008, when the digest was at its highest point, the value of a mill was approximately $29.4 million. In 2013, that same mill was valued at $23.6 million, a reduction of 20 percent, because of the change in the value of the digest. The digest reduction added considerable pressure to the budgeting process to balance the demands of a growing population – more than 50,000 people moved to Gwinnett in the last four years alone – with the ability to fund needed services. Gwinnett County officials responded by reducing the workforce, holding vacant positions open for 90 days, cutting operational budgets, eliminating or delaying new capital projects, deferring major maintenance projects and delaying construction of facilities that would add operating costs. At the same time, the County absorbed increasing health care costs, responded to legislative and regulatory mandates and continued to provide core services.
Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlotte Nash said, “County government has done what had to be done over the last few years to deal with the loss of revenues resulting from the economic downturn and the plummet in property values. We chose not to increase millage rates in the midst of the recession to offset value drops because we knew that property owners were struggling, too. However, we also know that some of the steps taken in recent years are not sustainable in the long run and could have negative impacts. All of the commissioners are carefully considering the needs of the community as we prepare to make a decision on the 2014 millage rate.”
In addition to the public hearings, commissioners are accepting online comments about the proposed 2014 millage rates. Interested residents should visit www.gwinnettcounty.com to access the form and provide their thoughts.