It just doesn’t seem right, does it? Mayor Robert Reichert will soon send an ordinance to the Macon-Bibb County Commission that will do something nobody thought was possible. First and foremost, it will equalize the millage rate all over the county. No longer will there be two property tax rates -- one for city residents and one for unincorporated Bibb County residents. Much to the chagrin of residents in the former unincorporated county, it was city residents who were paying higher taxes. If the mayor’s proposal is approved, everyone will pay the same rate for the first time -- 14.65 mills.
Unfortunately, the value of the area’s tax digest dropped, about 2.5 percent from 2014 to 2015, meaning it would take a millage rate of 14.83 to bring in the same amount of revenue as last year. The county’s budget will eat the difference even though calculators are still burning the midnight oil computing the impact of the early retirement offer that came to a close Friday. Many of those positions in public safety will eventually have to be replaced, but that process will take time.
Those unknowns shouldn’t dampen the rightful celebration. The county has -- since consolidation -- cut the tax rate for city residents by 9.7 mills and the county is a year ahead of cutting the budget by the required 20 percent in the consolidation legislation. Residents asked for a smaller government and they are getting one, just as promised.
However, there are many challenges ahead for the consolidated government. With the number of retirements, a lot of institutional knowledge is walking out of the door that cannot be replaced. And there are big hulking expenses, such as the landfill that will have to be dealt with either proactively or by state government order.
And, like any other business, personnel costs rise as the cost of goods and services rise. The county does have an opportunity, with the departure of so many department heads to look for the best and brightest -- up-and-comers in the various fields who won’t break the bank -- to fill those slots. However, there is a downside. People like that generally don’t hang around long.