It’s that time of year again. Millage rates are being set and like many other municipalities, the City of Brooklet is feeling the pain of increased costs across the board.
After 16 years of no property tax increases, the city council voted Thursday night to advertise for an increase of 2 millage points. The current rate of 6.696 mills would increase to 8.696.
Councilman Greg Schlierf told council members tHursday that the growth of the city has been propping up the budget for years, but now that growth has slowed, neighborhoods are mostly built out, and fund balances are shifting, Brooklet has to plan to move from a growing city to a sustainable city.
The council just recently worked to raise police salaries to be competitive with other agencies in the area, but the department is still lacking what it needs. The costs of garbage pick-up is increasing, which is why the city is increasing the garbage fee by $0.50, and other things like gasoline, materials, and labor are all increasing while revenue is not.
About 40% of the cities budget comes from tax dollar revenue. The remaining 60% comes from fines, forfeitures, fees and things of the sort. The city has been relying on the water fund to make up the difference, despite the growth, which is perfectly legal. It is risky, though. Should any major expense need to come from the water account, like repairs to the water tower, the city would need to take out a loan. State law says cities can only borrow from the water fund if there is no debt levied against the account. If a loan was taken out for water tower repair or a mega well issue, the water account funds would be held in their own account and the city would have an immediate money shortage.
Schlierf also told council members that if the city had increased the millage rate minimally a few times over the last 16 years, the need to increase it by 2 mills in 2017 might not exist. In fact, to get to a point where the city does not rely on the water fund at all, Brooklet taxes would need to be increased by 10 mills.
But that is not an option in the eyes of any council member.
Schlierf explained that a 2 mill increase on a $100,000 home would raise taxes approximately $200 for the year.
Councilman Russell Davis suggested raising the rate to an even 8.00. That rate, however, would not help the city raise considerable funds. Schlierf said one mill increase will bring the city an additional $20,000 annually. The hope is to bump the revenues up considerably with the 2 mill increase instead of having to raise taxes year after year.
The millage rate in Brooklet has been 6.696 for the last six years, but according to numbers presented at Thursday’s meeting, the increase in property values – which means the city automatically collects more even if the millage rate remains the same – is not enough to fix the problems Brooklet faces. And they’re not alone.
The City of Statesboro just voted to raise theirs by one mill, bringing the city to 7.38 mills while Portal was at 7.58 in 2016. Register does not levy property taxes.
Take a look at some of the others in the region and of similar size in other parts of the state:
|Brooklet||1,593||8.696 (with increase)|
Municipalities are at a disadvantage in Bulloch County because all of the sales tax collected goes to the Bulloch County Board of Education. The county government receives zero percent of the sales tax as well. While the cities and the counties go without, the Board of Education rakes in roughly $10 million a year in sales tax from residents, Georgia Southern students, and people who travel to the county for functions and football games. This practice is actually cemented in place by statute by the state of Georgia after cities and the county forfeited their right to the funds decades ago.
Councilman Stanoff said, “It’s just not a good subject.”
Bulloch County residents, according to tax commissioner James Deal, pay less property taxes than 98% of Georgians. Addiitionally, the median tax bill for property owners in Georgia is about $600 less than the national average.
A formal advertisement and 5-year tax levy history will be published next week, but the dates for public hearings where citizens are invited to speak have been set. All hearings will be at City Hall.
- October 10, 2017 at 10:00 a.m.
- October 17, 2017 at 3:00 p.m.
- October 19, 2017 at 6:00 p.m.
The next council meeting is scheduled for October 19, 2017 at 7:00 p.m., which is when the council is expected to vote on the millage rate.