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County Commissioner Gaines pushes for millage rollback
Final millage, impact fee hearings set for Thursday
Chris Gaines BOC
District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines - photo by Jessica Taylor

 The third and final hearing for the county millage rate will be held on Thursday night, at which point the Dawson County Board of Commissioners could vote to set the rate for 2018.

The board has the option of maintaining the current rate at 8.138, which is the most likely option, as well as raising the rate or rolling it back.

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. 

New businesses and homes coming to the area as well as a recent countywide revaluation on 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 would therefore increase the amount of taxes the county could collect by about 12.8 percent, or $1.3 million, over 2017.

A complete rollback to 7.393 mills would generate the same amount of revenue from property taxes as the year before.

The board has kept the millage rate the same for at least the past 10 years, meaning that each year as long as the total assessed property values increased, the board collected more in property taxes than the year before.

District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines said he plans to ask the board to roll the millage rate back and shift the burden onto other revenue sources.

LOST revenue been steadily increasing with the new developments on Ga. 400, and about  84 percent of those funds are generated by visitors to the county, Gaines said.

“We are very fortunate to have a great sales tax base that is primarily driven by people that live outside our county,” he said on Tuesday. “In my opinion we should try to rely more on those revenue dollars and lessen the burden on Dawson County citizens by keeping the property tax as low as possible.”

The county is also anticipating another increase in the tax digest next year, when phase two of the countywide reassessment (which includes industrial and commercial properties) is complete and when properties developed in 2018 are on the books.

“This is a balancing act because there are true needs throughout the county government that have not been met, and we have asked employees to do more with less over the last 10 years,” Gaines said. “It does take revenue to meet and operate with a high level of service that citizens deserve, however in my opinion we need to be looking at funding most of these needs with the increase in LOST revenue we are experiencing.”

Previous hearings were held on Aug. 2 and Aug. 9.

One citizen spoke at the Aug. 9 hearing. Mike Wenson, who lives on the Lake Lanier waterfront, asked the board to cut expenses and reduce the millage rate.

“My taxes are going through the roof. And I know as government employees you can turn around and raise taxes and not take into consideration the problems that people have paying them,” Wenson said.

Wenson said his property taxes have gone up 102 percent in the past three years. He also said that he felt there were mistakes made in the countywide revaluation and that he had appealed his assessment.

“I think there’s plenty of opportunities for cost cutting and I don’t think you need a 13 percent increase this year,” Wenson said. “Please roll back the millage rate.”

District 3 Commissioner Jimmy Hamby said he sympathized with Wenson because his taxes had gone up too.

“I’m in the same position you are, my taxes have went up too...We’re not exempt,” Hamby said. “But we have equipment that we use way beyond their life. We can roll that back, but we will wind up with old equipment...If you call an ambulance; I want them to get to you. I want it to be a good vehicle that won’t break down.”

“You just cannot believe how we suffer over this budget,” District 1 Commissioner Sharon Fausett said. “I’ve still got stuff on my kitchen table from the other budget because I was so bothered over something we couldn’t do. We want the best for everybody here, there’s just so many needs.”

 

In other business:

Impact Fees

The commission is also set to have its final of two hearings on impact fees at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Impact fees are collected on new developments and help offset the cost of capital improvements and services as the county develops, including parks and recreation, roads, libraries and public safety.

Under the proposed impact fee schedule, the maximum fee for a new single family home in 2018 would be $3,372.16; the maximum fee for a new general use office building would be $1.39 per square foot; and the maximum fee for a new shopping center would be $1.64 per square foot.

The board could vote Thursday to impose the fees at the maximum amount or at a smaller percentage of that amount.

The board enacted impact fees in 2006 and voted in May 2009 to suspend the fees so that developers who were deterred by the high cost would build in the county. Since then, no impact fees have been collected.

Commission meetings are held in the second floor assembly room of the Dawson County Government Center, located at 25 Justice Way in downtown Dawsonville.