“A year ago, I did not think that raising taxes was the way to deal with our budget,” said southeast Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott, who joined northeast Cobb Commissioner JoAnn Birrell in dissenting on the tax increase in last year’s 3-2 vote. “I still feel the same. We need to look at reducing the scope of government instead of raising taxes, especially in these economic times.”
Because the proposed millage rates are lower than the rollback rate, which is the rate that would be needed to bring in revenue equal to what the current rate will bring in, public hearings on the millage rate were canceled.
By keeping the millage rate the same, the county will bring in $1.7 million less in property tax revenue on the bills due Oct. 15 than it did in 2011, when it brought in $193.3 million, a decrease of 0.89 percent. County spokesman Robert Quigley said the county is making up for the difference by continuing to restrict spending and hiring.
Birrell wouldn’t say how she plans to vote, but added, “I didn’t support it last year, so I’ll leave it at that.”
The county’s current proposal would keep a general fund balance of 7.72 mills for the general fund, 3.06 mills for fire fund and 0.33 mills for debt service.
Last year, facing a $32 million budget shortfall, the Board of Commissioners approved a 15.7 percent millage rate increase, which increased taxes on a $200,000 home by $105.
Along with Chairman Tim Lee and southwest Cobb Commissioner Woody Thompson, the board’s only Democrat, northwest Cobb Commissioner Helen Goreham voted in the majority on the 2011 millage rate increase.
Goreham said Friday that the increase allowed the county to keep its AAA bond rating with all three rating agencies, which the county views as important because it collects taxes at the end of the fiscal year, meaning it has to borrow money at the beginning of the fiscal year. A strong bond rating allows it to borrow money at a lower interest rate.
“It provided a mechanism for the county to progress through the deepest part of the economic recession to put us in a position where we can grow and improve,” Goreham said. “If not, we would have been playing catch-up for many years just to reach our previous position.”
This year, whether homeowners see a property tax increase or decrease will depend on the value of their home. That could mean lower taxes for many residents, because 107,773 of Cobb’s 230,437 residential properties, or 47 percent, saw their values decrease between 2011 and 2012.
Tuesday’s meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Board of Commissioners second floor meeting room at 100 Cherokee St. in Marietta.