Posted: Thursday, June 26th 2014 at 8:00pm
Hall County Commission approves budget, rolls back millage rate
By B.J. Williams Administrator
Hall County commissioners have a full house for a final budget hearing Thursday evening at the Hall County Government Center.
GAINESVILLE - The Hall County Commission has approved a budget for the upcoming fiscal year, rolling back the millage rate to 5.989 from 6.25 mills. The vote to approve the $90 million document was 4-1 with District 1 Commissioner Craig Lutz casting the lone no vote.
The reduction in the millage rate provides some relief for owners of lake properties, some who say their property assessments have increased anywhere from 90 to 300 percent.
More than a dozen property owners took to the podium at the final public hearing on the budget. With one exception, those who spoke were unhappy about the impact reassessments will have on their property tax bills.
Patricia Scarlet Ferguson told commissioners that the lake property she inherited from her mother will not be her retirement home as she had planned, since she will be unable to afford the taxes on the property. Ferguson said she will place the property on Pine Tree Circle on the market.
Mandy Harris, who said she moved to Hall County to avoid growth problems in Gwinnett County, admonished commissioners for placing the burden of increased taxes on the back of lake property owners and no one else.
Curtis Iocco, who also moved to Hall County from Gwinnett, told commissioners they should be ashamed for allowing property tax increases of such large magnitude. He said he purchased a piece of property less than an acre in size with a mobile home on it after watching that property sit vacant for two years.
"I cleaned up the yard and I put some shutters on the house and I painted it...and they reassessed it 317-percent higher than they did last year," said Iocco after the budget hearing.
He said his tax bill last year was about $900, while this year's proposed bill will be close to $4,000. He said the rollback in the millage rate won't help much.
"They couldn't roll it back far enough," said Iocca.
He and others have started a group calling for a cap on how much property taxes can increase in a given year. [www.gataxcap.org]
District Two Commissioner Billy Powell said after Thursday's commission meeting he understood why lake property owners were unhappy, but he said their anger is misdirected.
"We're in charge of the millage rate, not of the assessment," said Powell. "That comes out of a completely different department that has a completely different board. It was hard to hear the criticism that it was our fault tonight, but we did what was within our powers."
Commissioner Jeff Stowe said he's a supporter of the Fair Tax, something that would alleviate problems such as the property tax issue, but that's not a call that county commissioners can make.
"I would love to take the burden off of property taxes and put it to a consumption tax, but we can't do that. You know, that's our state legislators' decision on how that's done," said Stowe.
Link: Hall County Government website
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