Macon City Council’s Appropriations Committee voted Monday to keep the city’s millage rate at 10.16 mills and not roll it back following last year’s property revaluations.
Property values in the city increased 13.51 percent, according to documents provided by the mayor’s office. To avoid a tax increase, the city’s millage rate would have to be rolled back to 8.951 mills.
Appropriations Committee Chairman Mike Cranford said the resolution “to propose and tentatively adopt” the rate at 10.16 mills is a procedural measure to allow the city to set the dates for public hearings on the millage rate.
State law requires three public hearings — two of which can be held the same day — before passing any measure that increases property tax revenue, City Attorney Pope Langstaff said.
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Andrew Blascovich, spokesman for Macon Mayor Robert Reichert, said the mayor wants to keep the millage rate the same and use that extra revenue — estimated at $2.5 million — to fund a pay scale for all city employees. Blascovich said the city also needs money to pay for capital improvements such as repairing the City Auditorium’s leaky roof.
Earlier this month, Reichert told The Telegraph that he supported a partial millage rate rollback. Blascovich said Monday that Reichert changed his mind and decided not to support any rollback after seeing the actual tax digest.
Councilman Tom Ellington voted against Monday’s resolution because he said it was not listed on the committee agenda. Ellington said he thinks the public should be aware of the millage rate process every step of the way.
As for keeping the millage rate the same, he said he didn’t want to increase it beyond 10.16 mills, but he is reserving judgment until he can review information from Finance Director Tom Barber.
“We do need a pay scale,” Ellington said after the meeting. “Until we see what exactly that will cost, I’m in wait-and-see mode.”
At the time of the vote, Councilman Virgil Watkins first voted “yes” and then said “no.” The resolution failed, and Cranford closed the meeting as the committee sat in confusion. Cranford then reopened the meeting after Watkins received clarification that the vote only allows the council to set the timeline for the public hearings.
This time Watkins voted yes, and the resolution passed.
Afterward he said that as a property owner, he always wants to see property taxes lowered, but he has other responsibilities as a steward of the city.
“Financially, I know we can’t turn down sources of revenue like that,” he said.
Cranford, Watkins and Councilwoman Elaine Lucas voted for the resolution, while Ellington and Councilwoman Nancy White voted against it.
Tonight, if the council approves the resolution at its full meeting, the Appropriations Committee will set public hearing dates. Langstaff said the public hearings can’t take place sooner than two weeks from the final approval because there must be two advertisements in the legal organ, The Telegraph, made at least five business days apart.
To contact writer Chris Horne, call 744-4494.