City, county propose property tax hike - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

City, county propose property tax hike

June 14, 2005

Ashburn- It may be a few weeks before people will definitely know whether the millage rate will increase, but Ashburn and Turner County say it's necessary. Both governments say residents will either have to stomach the rate hike or face a cut in services.

Homeowners in Turner County have one of the highest millage rates in Georgia, and it could be increased by three additional mills.

"We're at 16.1 now, so that will put us at 19.1 mills," says county commission chairman Deral Dukes.

While Dukes admits it's high, he says the number is kind of deceiving.

"A mill of tax in Turner County doesn't bring in but about $153,000. A mill of tax in some of these other places $900,000 to a million dollars," Dukes says. "Even three mills, it won't bring in but $450,000 in the budget."

The county is expected to adopt their $5.5 million 2006 budget on June 24th. Dukes says the commission didn't want to raise taxes, but has already trimmed the budget as much as they could.

"We cut about $750,000 out of different people's departments. We had everybody to take about a 10% cut in their budget this year," Dukes says.

Turner Countians won't be the only ones feeling the squeeze. The city of Ashburn has proposed their own tax hike of 1.5 mills, which would put them at 11 mills.

"It's definitely a last resort any time a city considers a tax increase; however, sometimes that's needed," says city manager Ben Taylor.

City officials say the economy is forcing their expenditures to climb, and forcing them to find ways to gain more revenue.

"Area's we're being hit hardest include fuel prices. We're looking at a 70% increase over the past year just like everybody else. Health insurance rates have gone up," Taylor says.

City manager Ben Taylor says the $4.9 million dollar budget has already been approved, but residents won't get a final word on the millage increase until late summer. Still, for Ashburn residents their is some light at the end of the tunnel.

"Luckily this year our tax payer received an ISO rating reduction. That's your home owners insurance tax related to fires," Taylor says.

The city went from a five to a four, making that savings more than what some residents would spend in additional property tax.

"So that is an example of your tax dollars," says Taylor.

Both governments say they did not want to reduce the amount and quality of services residents were receiving, so they created budget proposals that did not include any layoffs for the 2006 fiscal year.

The Turner County commission will hold a public hearing tomorrow evening at 5:30 to receive public input about the budget and proposed millage rate increase.

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