McDONOUGH — A handful of Henry County residents spoke against a proposed millage rate increase at the first of three public hearings Tuesday morning.
The county has proposed an increased millage rate of 12.995, which, according to officials, would generate tax revenue of $94,672,038.
If the county declined to increase its millage rate and instead maintain its millage rate of 12.733, the county would generate $92,709,424.
Matthews called that figure a “worst-case scenario” as tax appeals are still being heard. She said that if the board decides against the millage rate increase, there would be some shortfall, but the county could still cover that shortfall.
Matthews said the county would need tax revenue of $92,869,591 for the 2019-20 fiscal year, later stating a 12.767 millage rate could cover that revenue.
Among the speakers at Tuesday morning’s hearing was Stockbridge City Councilman Elton Alexander, speaking as a “citizen, a homeowner and a property taxpayer” of the county.
Alexander praised the county for the presentation at the hearing, which he said provided a strong case for not increasing the millage rate.
“The initial estimates on the revenues were very conservative,” Alexander said. “There’s more revenue coming in than was projected, which leaves us the ability to maintain the current tax rate. We see that every single day with businesses flourishing in the county. The economy is booming at record rates. The stock market is at all-time highs.”
Alexander, a Realtor, said the current housing market is a “seller’s market,” which means there are more interested buyers in the market than sellers, driving up real estate prices.
John Buckner, who has lived in the county since 1998, said he was on the verge of leaving the county due to the proposed tax increases, but he wanted to stay.
Buckner said several of his neighbors have left due to tax increases.
“I still want to stay here, but you’re forcing me out,” Buckner said. “Four of my neighbors just put up their houses with this Mark guy, this real estate company that guarantees to buy your house. Four of them. They all told me their tax bill is too damn high. You can put your little dog and pony show up here, but I’ll tell you: What do we have in Henry County? Nothing. Warehouses.”
In May, the county passed a $163,045,000 general fund budget, which includes funding for around 20 new law enforcement officers, extra constituent aides for the Board of Commissioners and the county absorbing 100% of health insurance rate increases.
Around $295,000 in the county’s fund balance was used to help balance the general fund budget, which was something county leaders had discouraged commissioners from doing in budget hearings held earlier this year.