McDONOUGH — Henry County residents are making their voices heard in support of a proposed property-tax hike.
One speaker even told the Board of Commissioners they need to provide the necessary funding for employees to do their jobs.
The county has begun a series of public hearings on a millage-rate adjustment for the area.
“I don’t see how we can continue to cut, unless we cut services,” said Tommy Kennedy, of McDonough. He said he favors a “reasonable, modest” adjustment to the millage rate.
Kennedy said county leaders face a daunting task in working to provide services to residents in a struggling economy.
Kennedy also addressed certain county purchases, which have come under fire in recent years. Those purchases include the Cotton Fields Golf Course, acquired in 2007, and the Atlanta South Regional Airport, which Henry County bought from Clayton County in 2011.
“Are those good things for the community in the long run? Yes,” said Kennedy. “But in the short run, you take the heat.”
A District III County Commission candidate, Sandra Vincent, expressed support for the millage adjustment.
“It is critical to Henry County,” said Vincent, who is unopposed for the Democratic nomination in district race. “To not do this would be irresponsible.”
Ralph Easterwood, pastor emeritus of Glen Haven Baptist Church in McDonough, called on commissioners to work toward giving pay raises to county employees, particularly those at the Henry County Police and Henry County Fire departments.
Henry Commission Chairman Elizabeth “B.J.” Mathis, acknowledged that both departments are in need of additional staff and funding.
Commissioners recently announced a proposed millage increase of 8.15 percent over the rollback millage rate of 13.595, said county spokesperson, Julie Hoover-Ernst. “The rollback millage rate is the rate that would produce the same total revenue on the current year’s digest that last year’s millage rate would have produced had no reassessments occurred,” the county spokesperson continued. “Recent property reassessments have resulted in the average home value going from $181,000 in 2008, down to $107,000 in 2012. Overall, property values have fallen so sharply that Henry County’s Property Tax Digest has dropped about $6 billion since 2008. Consequently, the value of a mil in Henry County has gone from $6.7 million in 2008 down to $4.6 million today.”
Commissioners tentatively adopted a millage-rate adjustment from 11.75 mills, to 14.5 mills, on July 16. The vote came after a presentation by Fred Auletta, Henry County Manager.
“This year, one of the issues that we have with the budget that was approved, is a $10 million shortage, and trying to determine where that’s going to be made up,” Auletta said. “We’re looking at having to do something with millage or fund balance,” he added.
When asked how much of an adjustment would be realized by residents with homes worth $100,000 in 2012, Auletta said it will depend on how much the value of a given home decreased in this year’s tax digest, compared with last year.
“The key is, the size of the homes that are in that $100,000 range had the greatest decrease this year in the digest, because they’re the ones that are more affected by foreclosures, it appears,” Auletta said. “So, if you have a $150,000 house ... and you’re surrounded with foreclosures, and they sold for 40 grand [$40,000], it’s going to affect those houses,” he added.
“In the under-$100,000 value ... last year, there were 19,563 [homes],” said Auletta. “In this year’s digest, 31,198 [homes] are under $100,000.”
Next Wednesday, on Aug. 1, at 9 a.m., the final public hearing will be conducted, and a new millage rate is set to be adopted at 10 a.m., according to County Clerk Shay Mathis.