‘Worst of the worst’ of Macon’s blighted properties may be charged much higher tax

Macon-Bibb County may get a new blight tax.

The higher property tax — seven times the current millage rate — is being proposed as a way to get owners to remove or remodel dilapidated buildings. Macon’s blight tax would be a step toward addressing a county-wide problem, Commissioner Joe Allen said.

The tax would be charged to the “worst of the worst” unoccupied residential and commercial properties, he said.

The blight tax is scheduled to be discussed by the County Commission on Feb. 12.

“I feel like we have everything in place to put this into effect as soon as possible,”Allen said. “I want blight gone in Macon-Bibb County.”

Currently, Macon-Bibb has about 1,566 structures categorized as being in poor condition or suggested for demolition, according to figures from the Macon-Bibb blight consultant Cass Hatcher.

Based on the current 20.652 millage rate, the blight tax would result in that property being taxed at $144 per every $1,000 in assessed value.

Any revenue from the tax would have to be used on community redevelopment, the proposed ordinance said.

Some details such as who would identify and notify the property owners would need to be ironed out. Macon-Bibb code enforcement or the Macon-Bib Land Bank Authority could be used in the effort, Allen said.

The county’s code enforcement division, is already stretched thin, officials have said.

There are currently four code inspectors who are managing more than 3,360 open cases, according to Business Development Services.

Allen’s blight tax initiative is modeled after a program that’s been in place in Savannah the past two years. In total, the city has charged $158,000 in blight tax to 118 properties, according to Savannah’s public information officer.

The Macon-Bibb County Commission has spent $14 million on various blight projects over the last several years. The county has another $12 million of special sales tax revenue to combat blight.

Commissioner Virgil Watkins recently estimated it would cost another $35 million-$40 million to tackle blight in Macon-Bibb.