But don’t light those leftover July Fourth fireworks or uncork the champagne just yet. The board trimmed the rate by just 0.2 mills, meaning the owner of a house with a tax value of $200,000 will save a whopping $14. Enough to buy about four gallons of gas, or two or three fancy coffees at Starbucks or Cool Beans just off Marietta Square.
The decrease will be reflected on the 2013 tax bills, which go out Aug. 15.
The Commission had hiked the rate to 11.11 mills from 9.6 mills back in 2011 rather than cut services any deeper or do like many jurisdictions were doing and resort to widespread layoffs and furloughs.
But Lee promised late last year to begin rolling the tax rate back down as the county’s fiscal picture improved. Tuesday’s decision was the first step in that process, with the Commission voting 4-1 in favor of the rollback.
The sole “no” vote came from south Cobb’s Lisa Cupid.
“We’re looking at about $10 for each homeowner,” she said. “For that, what is it worth to see our public right-of-ways mowed? For that, what is it worth to see the hours of some of our facilities lengthened?”
Answered Lee, “Our budget moving forward is sustainable. … I believe we have hit the bottom. Indications are we are turning the corner and are improving.”
That would indeed seem to be the case. Housing starts have been going up, the unemployment rate is edging down, vehicle sales are strong and the real estate market is red hot. The Cobb government should be able to absorb the loss of revenue from the cut (only $4.3 million) without blinking an eye.
Indeed, Lee and the commission are already looking at creating what amounts to a so-called rain tax, which would be a fee tacked onto water bills to raise funds to address stormwater-infrastructure issues. The rain tax would wipe out the minimal savings from Tuesday’s tax cut about two times over.
Cobb historically has maintained one of the very lowest property tax rates in the metro area, and last week’s vote is a welcome step toward maintaining that status. But the commission should think long and hard before tacking on new taxes or fees, and should also consider accelerating the pace of tax rollback toward the 9.6 rate we left behind in 2011.
The Cobb government (like most other governments and businesses — and like most taxpayers) has had to “do more with less” in recent years because of the economy. Now, even though the economy is cranking back up, this is not the time to replace “Do more with less” with a “Have more, spend more” approach.