WARNER ROBINS -- Despite a decrease in tax revenues, Houston County residents won’t see a millage rate increase this year.
Houston County commissioners approved Monday a 9.95 millage rate for fiscal 2015 -- the same as the past six years, Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker noted.
He boasted that the county has one of the lowest millage rates in Middle Georgia.
A fire tax of 1.18 mills for unincorporated areas also is unchanged.
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The net tax digest for 2014 is nearly $3.8 billion, down nearly $28.5 million from 2013, Stalnaker said. He detailed some of the highs and lows of the tax digest.
Tax revenue from existing real property decreased by nearly $6.8 million in 2014, compared with a $10.8 million decrease in 2013. The decrease mostly was attributed to foreclosures and other factors that depressed the market on reassessments, he said.
“There’s not as much property that has gone down in value to drive the digest down in ‘14 as there was in ‘13,” Stalnaker said. “That’s a positive note.”
Meanwhile, tax revenue from real property increased by $27 million, which means there is new growth in both residential and commercial construction, Stalnaker said.
Also, tax revenue from personal property increased by $11.2 million, which is also a positive sign, he said.
A change in how vehicles are taxed put a wrinkle in the tax digest -- at least on paper.
As of March 1, 2013, motor vehicles purchased and titled in Georgia are exempted from sales and use tax as well as the annual ad valorem tax, which was also known as the birthday tax. The taxes were replaced by the title ad valorem tax, called the TAVT, which is a one-time fee imposed on the fair market value of the vehicle. The fair market value is the taxable base of the motor vehicle.
As a result of the change, revenues from the ad valorem tax on vehicles decreased by $59.5 million on the Houston County tax digest, Stalnaker said. But he stressed that the TAVT tax shows up in other revenue.
“Eventually it will be little to nothing on ad valorem taxes on motor vehicles because of the TAVT tax,” Stalnaker said. “However, the TAVT tax is on other side, on the revenue side, and you don’t see it as setting your millage.
“That’s the reason I said it’s somewhat deceiving. It appears that you’re losing a lot of money which in fact you’re gaining money on the other side, the revenue side to offset the decrease in ad valorem taxes,” Stalnaker said.
The bottom line is the county is expecting a $350,436 decrease in revenues from taxes, which is less than a 1 percent decrease, he said.
“We’re ... going to have approximately a $350,000 decrease in revenues from taxes that are projected due to the ad valorem on the motor vehicles taxes and all,” Stalnaker said. “But, again, on the revenue side, we feel like we’re going to be able to stay within the budget limitations that we approved a few weeks ago without any adjustment in the millage rate.” The general fund budget, which is paid for primarily with property taxes, is $52.2 million, about a half million dollars more than last year. It includes a 3 percent raise for county employees and does not dip into the reserve fund.
“It’s something we’re going to be able to live with,” Stalnaker said. “We made a commitment not to increase taxes, and we’re not going to increase the taxes.”
He added that, “There’s not a lot of room for growth -- additional new dollars. That’s the reason when you get into this budget process and start explaining to different department heads, it’s not growing at the level you think your expenses need to grow, and that’s the reason the belt tightening has been occurring over the last few years.”
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.