Macon-Bibb County commissioners appear to have reached a compromise on a proposed tax increase.
After being unable to agree on a property tax rate for months, the commission voted 5-4 in favor of a 3-mill tax increase at a special called meeting Thursday. It will now vote on finalizing a 20.483 millage rate at 3 p.m. Aug. 16 in the Macon-Bibb County Government Center.
Questions, however, remain if the five votes needed to approve the tax increase will still be there next week.
Also, commissioners have to decide how that extra $12 million in revenue would be split up among various agencies such as museums, the transit authority, libraries, Macon-Bibb recreation, parks and beautification departments, and Bowden Golf Course.
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Without funding, the Washington Memorial Library will shut down Aug. 16. The Macon Transit Authority only has enough money to keep it running through August. And the jobs of more than 100 county employees hang in the balance.
Commissioner Bert Bivins said commissioners have to be willing to change their minds and support an increase that is for the betterment of the community.
“The important thing right now is compromise,” he said. “None of us can afford to have any sacred cows.”
Bivins, along with Commissioners Al Tillman, Elaine Lucas, Joe Allen and Virgil Watkins, voted for the 3-mill increase after nearly two hours of discussions. Allen’s vote proved to be the difference after he voted against a 4.36 mill increase on Tuesday.
Allen said he understands why some people will be upset with his vote, but he feels it was the right decision as commissioners continue looking for other ways to save money in the future.
“I had to make sure we had enough money to get through this year and do it right,” Allen said following Thursday’s meeting
Jones again proposed his plan with a 2.76-mill increase. One of his sticking points was incorporating a 4 percent contribution for pension plans, something some other commissioners balked at Thursday.
Commissioners will be talking about tax increases again next year, “if we don’t make some painful but necessary cuts to the budget,” Jones said.
Schlesinger continued to say he did not have confidence a tax increase would solve budgetary problems after other “balanced budgets” ended up millions of dollars in the hole in recent years.
The first budget Mayor Robert Reichert presented to the commission earlier this year called for a 3.7-mill increase that would have brought in roughly $15 million in new revenue. When that proposal and many other others failed, commissioners passed a $149 million budget that cut funding for outside agencies as well money as for several county departments.
Prior to the vote Thursday, Reichert pleaded with commissioners to approve a tax increase.
“I pray that all of us can set aside personality differences, set aside grudges ... for the good of this community and to avoid a catastrophic scenario,” he said.