Dougherty commissioners look to keep property tax rates unchanged

·2 min read

Jul. 19—ALBANY — Dougherty County Commissioners have a taxing issue on their hands, but the positive news is that the value of real property grew slightly countywide over the previous year.

At issue is whether to decrease the tax rate to correspond with the 0.34 percent increase in the total assessed value of property, which increased by about $6.8 million from $2.005 billion to $2.011 billion.

"Even though it's a minimal increase, it's a good thing and shows growth," Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas said.

Currently, homes are selling briskly, and that could signal more growth in the county's tax digest down the road, he said.

"It shows residents can get more for their houses," the chairman said. "If you talk to Realtors in Dougherty County, homes are selling like hotcakes. It's a seller's market. Home values are increasing."

In the short-term, however, commissioners have to decide whether or not to roll back the millage rate by 0.34 percent to reflect the increase in property values. For the tax rate in the special service district, which funds fire protection and recreation for residents in unincorporated Dougherty County, the increase would be 0.27 percent.

If the rates are not reduced, it is considered a tax increase under state law and would require that the commission to hold a series of public hearings on the issue. The recommendation of the commission's budget-writing Finance Committee is to leave the millage rate unchanged.

For property owners, a resident in unincorporated Dougherty County whose residence had an increase in value corresponding to the increased valuations would pay an additional $2.09 to the general fund and $1.03 more for the special service district fund.

However, only property owners who had an increase in property values would pay more. Properties that remained unchanged would be taxed the same amount as last year, and those that fell in value would have a lower overall tax bill.

As a backdrop, commissioners also approved on Monday a pay increase for public safety employees and lump-sum payouts of $1,000 to other county workers.

The initial year or two of the pay raises will be funded through federal dollars, but after that the county's budget will have to bear the costs.

Four years ago the commission increased the millage rate to its current 0.0155 rate. The county needs to plan toward making those salary increases permanent using county funding, Commissioner Victor Edwards said.

"To roll them back will be to throw all this hard work away," Commissioner Clinton Johnson, a member of the Finance Committee, said. "Four years ago, we made the tough decisions."

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