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Commission sets millage rate
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Some Dawson County residents may see a slight property tax increase following the county commission's vote last week to set the millage rate at 8.138 mills.

The county will base its 2015 budget on the approved tax digest, with hearings on the spending plan under way.

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.

Dena Bosten, Dawson's chief financial officer, said the county must also calculate its rollback, which is a rate that would generate the same amount of property tax revenue as the previous year. That is then submitted along with the tax digest to the department of revenue.

Commissioner James Swafford's motion to maintain a rate of 8.138 mills was approved 3-0, with Commissioner Julie Hughes Nix absent.

Commission Chairman Mike Berg is tentatively scheduled to present the budget proposal to the full commission next month.

Without a rollback, the rate of 8.138 mills will amount to an increase of 0.65 mills from the current year.

"This year, that rollback rate is lower than our current millage rate, so if we don't roll the millage rate down, in theory you increase property tax," Bosten said.

During the three required hearings on the millage rate, few residents had anything to say on the matter. Those who did said the process for home assessments was confusing.

"It's not clear at all," said Tamara Koperda, president of the Chestatee Homeowner's Association. "I'm in favor of fair and equitable assessments. We all understand that we have to pay for the services we get in the county and we like to have good services."

She said the confusion stems from not knowing how the county is basing its assessments and what data is being considered in those valuations.

"I know in Chestatee, many have been sitting at assessments that are way above what the recent sales could support, probably since late 2009 on," she said. "We're happy to see homes selling in our neighborhood now, and we're happy to see the process increasing, but we haven't begun to catch up on the curve yet.

"So I feel like as a homeowner we've ended up on the expensive side of the curve where they never went down and what you really did was not offset that by not increasing the millage rate."

Only a portion of property owners in the county will be affected by the proposed rate.

"Not everybody's property was evaluated upwards," said Commission Chair Mike Berg. "The tax assessor did not take the entire county, he just took some areas, so not everybody got an increased appraisement. So it's unfair to say it's an across-the-board tax increase."

The proposed increase for a home with a fair market value of $200,000 amounts to about $52.64, while it will be about $45.50 for a non-homestead property with a fair market value of $175,000.

The school board voted July 7 to maintain its portion of the county millage rate at 17.246 mills.