Two of the three planned public hearings for setting the Macon-Bibb County property tax rate were held Tuesday.
No actual increase is planned -- and property owners within the former city limits of Macon will see a tax cut -- but state law requires this year’s rate to be advertised as a tax hike.
The reason is that the fire protection fee, which previously applied only to residents of the unincorporated county and appeared as a separate line on the tax bill, is being rolled into the general assessment. Now it also applies for the first time to property owners in the former city limits, but the city’s previously separate millage rate will be cut in half.
That works out to a cut of 2.2 mills for residents within the former city limits, about $80 off the bill on a house valued at $100,000, according to a Macon-Bibb news release.
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The proposed millage rate for residents of the former unincorporated county is 14.652 mills, while residents in the former city limits will pay 19.502 mills. That doesn’t include school taxes, which the Macon-Bibb commission does not set.
Macon-Bibb officials said they plan to repeal the rest of the former city tax in the next fiscal year, equalizing rates countywide.
Tuesday’s first hearing, at 9:30 a.m., drew a handful of people to the commission chamber. Darryl Dent, who said he lives on a dirt road without street lights or sewer service, asked whether there is a plan to provide the same services to rural residents as those now offered in the urbanized area.
“The short answer to that is yes, but it’s going to take a few years to get there,” Mayor Robert Reichert said. “We’re trying to equalize services as well as the millage rate.”
The day’s second hearing, at 3 p.m., drew a few more people. At the two meetings several speakers, including Arthur Brook, asked how it was legal to keep even part of the old city tax rate for another year.
Commissioner Gary Bechtel, chairman of the commission’s Operations & Finance Committee, said the new government’s charter allows the creation of a special urban taxing district for that purpose. But commissioners are only allowing that district to exist for one year, equalizing taxes after that, he said.
This year’s budget already is about $10 million less than the combined budgets of the former city and county, Bechtel said. Taking away even more tax revenue this year was too much to cut at once, he said.
The final public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Aug. 19 in the commission chamber, 700 Poplar St., just before the full commission meeting when the tax rate will be up for final approval.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.