McDONOUGH — It appears a suggested increase to the county’s millage rate may not happen due to lack of support from the Henry County Board of Commissioners.
The proposed 1-mill increase, worth about $8 million, was recommended by county staff during the March 30 fiscal year 2022 budget workshop. A millage increase would result in higher property taxes.
The rate increase could allow the county to accommodate all requests, largely for personnel, made by the public safety cluster, which includes Henry County Police, Fire Department and Sheriff’s Office.
The BOC has made public safety funding a priority; however, Commissioner Johnny Wilson pointed out that residents could face two tax increases in a short period of time — the first on property and the second on the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. Residents will vote on the T-SPLOST referendum in November. If approved, collections will begin in April 2022.
County officials are estimating revenue at $190 million and expenditures at $191.7 million. The county is expecting a revenue increase of $4 million from local taxes and $2.4 million from sales taxes. However, they’re looking at an increase of $1.5 million in health insurance premiums and $1 million in pension contributions. Additionally, the budget includes a 2% cost-of-living adjustment and a 1% longevity increase for those eligible.
The county is also proposing a change to the vesting period from 10 years to five years at a cost $218,000 and reclassification of E911 personnel to the public safety pension program at a cost of $57,900.
A fourth judgeship and the creation of a Board of Ethics are also new fiscal year 2022 costs.
County Manager Cherie Hobson-Matthews said the fiscal year 2021 revised budget is forecast at $180 million. She said she’ll hold all departments to their 2021 adjusted budgets and revisit requests made by departments in the fiscal year 2022 budget.
She said doing so will not reduce the county’s current level of services offered to residents, but that new requests may not be honored.
“We’ll have to go back and figure out where we can reassess and figure out what that means for each department,” Hobson-Matthews said, adding that it could mean public safety may not get the additional personnel, if at all, until the mid-year 2022 budget adjustment.
The public will have an opportunity to voice their opinions on the budget during two upcoming public hearings. The first will be held on May 4 at 9 a.m. The second will be held on May 18 at 6:30 p.m.
The board is expected to adopt the fiscal year 2022 budget during the May 18 meeting.