Houston County’s tax digest figures released Tuesday give some indication the local economy may be trending in a positive direction.
For the first time since 2013, the gross digest edged past the $4 billion mark, a 1.46-percent increase from the previous year. The digest, formulated by the Tax Assessors Office, compiles the value of all taxable property in the county. It includes real estate, vehicles, mobile homes and heavy equipment.
The net digest, which takes out the deductions property owners are allowed and is used to set the millage rate, was $3.77 billion, which is about $50 million more than last year.
That results in $437,634 more in additional tax revenue for the county, which is a 1.18-percent increase from 2016. It’s the first time the county has seen revenue growth from property taxes in four years. Although it’s far from the increases the county saw in its booming years, Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker liked it.
“Anytime you see those numbers on the increase, particularly over previous years, it’s a positive sign,” he said after the meeting.
That’s after the county commission on Tuesday set the millage rate at 9.935 mills, which is down from the 9.95 mills that it has been. The decrease is an adjustment for a $56,000 increase in revenue the county would have seen due to property revaluations if the tax rate had remained the same.
Stalnaker explained that state law requires the county to roll back any increase related to revaluation, or either hold three public hearings announcing it as a tax increase. He said the board was not inclined to hold three public hearings to get $56,000.
Stalnaker said the remaining part of the tax revenue growth is largely the result of new construction in the county, including residential and commercial. He is hopeful that trend will continue next year as more new construction going on currently is expected to hit the tax rolls.
Houston County is one of the few in the state that has a mandated limit on its millage rate. Under the limit, the county could set the rate as high as 10.12 mills, Stalnaker said. He said the tax rate has been lower than the cap for over 15 years.
Under the millage rate set Tuesday, the county expects to collect $37.5 million in property taxes compared to $37.1 million the previous year. However, tax revenues would still be down from $37.9 million in 2013, which was the last time the county saw an increase from the previous year.