Dougherty okays budget, concerns over declining tax digest

Dougherty okays budget, concerns over declining tax digest
(Source: WALB)

Dougherty County commissioners approved a $68,725,255 dollar spending plan for the next fiscal year, but commissioners are already discussing ways to find more money and spend less.

Although expenditures have stayed stable during a five year period, commissioners have had to dip into savings over the years to meet the budget amid declining revenues.

County Administrator Richard Crowdis said that the county's "fund balance is like a savings account", and that commissioners will be looking at stopping the siphoning of the fund in the next fiscal year.

And, property taxes will not go up under the new budget.

The millage rate is remaining virtually unchanged in both county tax districts, rolling back as required by state law a mere .008% countywide and .011% in the special services district, better known as unincorporated Dougherty County. The total loss from the minor millage decline is $21,507.

Calling the current rate of spending "not sustainable", Dougherty County's chairman Monday asked the commission to look for "solutions" to a declining tax digest.

Chairman Chris Cohilas said the devastation across the county caused by multiple storm events earlier in the year will impact tax revenue in the coming months.

The owners of Paradise Village, a mobile home community destroyed by the January tornado, have not paid property taxes yet according to county tax employees.

Other property owners with similar losses, or a declining home value, might also find it difficult to make the tax payment and Cohilas wants the commission to prepare now.

"We need to be analyzing this now because there will be a payday later on. We need to be examining ways to cut expenses significantly while prioritizing our investments that improve property values and bring jobs here," said Cohilas.

Tax revenues in Dougherty County have been on the decline every year for the past five years except in 2015.

In 2015 the tax digest jumped 5% due to a revaluation of urban land.

According to data from the county's assistant administrator Michael McCoy, the net digest over a ten-year period has declined by around $288 million dollars.

That is a major area affecting revenues for the county, not just storm damage.

McCoy said that the storm damage impact won't be known until next year.

Commissioners will be holding a second board retreat in August to set spending priorities for the community.

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