Some Dawson County residents will see a property tax increase after the county commission voted 3-1 last week to set the millage rate at 8.138 mills.
The millage rate is part of a formula used to calculate property taxes, where one mill equals $1 for every $1,000 in assessed property value. The county has maintained the same rate of 8.138 mills for at least a decade.
New businesses and homes coming to the area as well as a recent countywide revaluation of all agricultural and residential real property has resulted in an overall increase in the total tax digest, or value of all the properties in the county. Leaving the rate the same as last year will increase the amount of taxes the county will collect by about 12.8 percent, or $1.3 million, over 2017.
Property owners will receive a higher tax bill if their assessment increased or remained the same compared to 2017.
By law the county must also calculate a rollback rate. A complete rollback to 7.393 mills would generate the same amount of revenue from property taxes as in 2017, which was $10.6 million.
One person spoke during the third and final hearing Aug. 16. Tony Passarello, who despite being an active member of the Development Authority of Dawson County and other local groups, spoke to the commission as a resident and concerned citizen and not on behalf of any organization.
Passarello said he had thought a lot about the millage rate and thought for many months that the rate should stay the same, but after reviewing the public budget hearings that the county has been conducting over the past two weeks, started to feel differently.
“Over the course of the last two weeks, what we’ve heard, with only one minor exception, is the need to not only...operate but to catch up from some of the things that we’ve ignored, that we’ve had to ignore from a fiscal responsibility standpoint,” Passarello said. “I’ve also been studying some of the revenue from the county that we have… (and) we have watched with interest the reassessment of the property that was commissioned by the county to go back and look at the residential properties, it was much needed, it was overdue.”
Passarello asked the board to compromise and roll the rate back a little to allow the county to still provide a high level of service as well as be responsible with taxpayer money.
“We have the opportunity to perhaps be fiscally responsible in these good times and prepare our reserve for the work that needs to be done, to prepare the infrastructure and staffing that we’re going to need to serve the increase and get ahead of that because of the increase in population that we’re all expecting, but at the same time send a message to the property owners in Dawson County that we understand and we appreciate the fact that we’re trying to be good stewards,” Passarello said.
Following Passarello’s remarks, District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines motioned to roll the rate back to 8.0635, a 10 percent rollback that would amount to around a $105,000 difference in the amount of taxes the county could collect compared to the current rate.
“It’s not as much as I would like but it’s a compromise and it's a way to take steps with this thing,” Gaines said. “We do have a lot of needs and I think that we show that we are trying to be responsible over the budget and I think that we’re responsible that we’re not giving it back to the citizens, it’s just simply that we’re not asking for that much out of their pockets because it's theirs to begin with.”
District 4 Commissioner Julie Hughes Nix and District 3 Commissioner Jimmy Hamby asked how much each taxpayer would save by Gaines’ proposed rollback.
“I did a quick calculation and on a home of a $250,000 value, that would be a savings of about $7.45,” said Chief Financial Officer Vickie Neikirk.
Chairman Billy Thurmond seconded the motion for discussion purposes, but it was voted down 3-1, with commissioners Nix, Hamby and Sharon Fausett voting against the rollback.
Nix's subsequent motion to maintain the current rate was approved 3-1, with Gaines voting against setting the rate at 8.138.
The board will consider the approximately $2.3 million combined increase in property and sales taxes when setting the county's 2019 budget. Open budget hearings wrapped up Aug. 16, and Thurmond should be ready to present a proposed budget in mid-September.