Macon-Bibb County property tax rates for the next year aren’t set yet, but it’s already known that there will be a tax hike -- at least on paper.
But the net effect will be no rate change for residents of the former unincorporated Bibb County, while residents of the former city limits of Macon actually will get a tax cut, Mayor Robert Reichert told commissioners Tuesday.
The fire protection fee that was unique to residents of the former unincorporated county is being extended to those who live in the old Macon city limits. It will be incorporated into the general millage rate instead of appearing as a separate line on the tax bill, he said. While residents in the old city limits will now pay the fire fee, they’re also getting a 50 percent reduction in their city property tax. The rest of the city tax for those people will drop off next year, Reichert said.
“That’s what we’re trying to get to ultimately,” he said. “We’re trying to get everyone to pay the same rate.”
But since the fire fee is being merged with general millage, state law counts that as a tax increase that must be advertised, even though people ultimately will pay the same or less tax, Reichert said.
The commission’s Operations & Finance Committee voted 4-0 Tuesday morning for an ordinance to set up tax districts and rates, with Commissioner Larry Schlesinger absent. It’s expected up for a final vote by the full commission Aug. 19.
A final rate can’t be set until the annual tax digest arrives from Bibb County Tax Commissioner Tommy Tedders, County Manager Dale Walker said. That should arrive within a week.
The required public hearings, to be held at Macon-Bibb County Government Center, 700 Poplar St., are scheduled for 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Aug. 12, and 6 p.m. Aug. 19.
Committee members heard tag-team presentations from several consultants, all with generally positive news about Macon-Bibb’s finances.
Representatives of Cavanaugh Macdonald Consulting said the Jan. 1, 2014, consolidation of city and county governments had spurred a larger than usual number of “fairly young retirees,” driving up the pension system’s liability. But they said investment returns also were good, and the pension system set up for newly hired employees should keep pension costs down in the future.
The one big financial pothole, said Cavanaugh Macdonald personnel and Miller Edwards of auditing firm Mauldin & Jenkins, is a matter of new accounting rules rather than any real change. Next year the government will have to add $60 million in unfunded pension liability to its books as a result of federal accounting-law changes, Edwards said. But that’s merely acknowledging existing long-term commitments which there is a plan to fulfill, and it’s “on the small side” compared to the pension debt facing many other governments, he said.
“It’s not going to affect you all like it will others, I can tell you that,” Edwards said.
This year Independent Portfolio Consultants has been retained to manage short-term investment of the government’s cash on hand. The firm’s job is to increase the return on that cash, said Cheryl Underwood, senior consultant for IPC.
Dave Pequet, president of MPI Investment Management -- managing the city’s available cash for IPC -- said in just six months the government has earned $109,000 more than in previous short-term strategy, four times the previous return.
Beer by the drink
The Economic & Community Development Committee voted 4-0, with Schlesinger absent, to allow businesses that sell growlers of beer to also offer beer and wine by the drink.
Owners of local growler locations have said they want to hold beer tastings or offer individual pints by the glass, in addition to selling the sealed 32- or 64-ounce jugs.
State officials have said such individual drink sales are legal, so long as the business has separate licenses for growler and by-the-drink sales.
Commissioner Virgil Watkins asked if that meant nightclubs could also apply for a license to sell growlers, but County Attorney Judd Drake said state law forbids growler sales where hard liquor is sold by the drink.
Lots of work has been done on the Macon Coliseum, Convention Center and City Auditorium, but more is needed, officials from the Macon Marriott City Center told commissioners at a nonvoting Tuesday afternoon work session.
The Marriott manages the three public facilities, collectively known as the Macon Centreplex, under a contract with the government.
Much lower-level interior damage from leaks was repaired at the auditorium, and the building’s exterior was cleaned and sealed, said Randy Urben, Marriott City Center director of property operations. Now a five-year renovation plan needs to be written for the 1926 building, though carrying it out would cost “multiple millions of dollars,” he said.
Current work there and at other parts of the Centreplex is being done with $5 million from the special purpose local option sales tax voters approved in 2011.
At the coliseum, seats have been replaced, and floors and restrooms have been redone, Urben said.
“I’ve heard nothing but good from our guests as they come in,” he said.
There was ventilation and lighting work to do, too. Many systems in the 46-year-old building are at the end of their expected life, Urben said.
Reichert asked if more work was needed to accommodate the Macon Mayhem, the minor-league hockey team expected to start playing in the coliseum in October 2015. Locker rooms and offices are being refurbished and water pumps rebuilt, Urben said. Bids should come in a couple weeks for replacing the expansion joint around the ice floor, he said.
After 29 years, Doug Furney will retire at the end of this month as Lake Tobesofkee director. Tuesday he told commissioners the lake has steadily increased revenue for several years, but needs more parking and pavilions if that’s to continue.
More than 10,000 people packed the lake’s three parks on July Fourth weekend, Furney said.
“It was one of the best ones we’ve had,” he said.
But pavilions already are booked months in advance, so more are needed if attendance and park revenue is to increase, Furney said.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.