No property tax rate increase for Cobb County

The Cobb County Commission split 3-2 to keep the property tax rate where it is

This is an effect following a marathon hearing Tuesday night, marathon which warned that services may be cut as a result.

Many taxpayers will still end up paying more, as assessments in much of the county have gone up, some dramatically so.

More than a dozen speakers assailed the board over a proposed .13 mill increase championed by Chairman Mike Boyce as a means of fulfilling his campaign promise to buy more parks.

Boyce also said the county was facing a funding shortage for services already provided, referring to the fact that the 2017 millage rate is adopted at the end of the year, after the budget has been largely spent. Cobb’s fiscal year begins October 1 and ends September 30.

The county has proposed a millage rate increase from 9.85 to 9.98 mills. That includes money for the county’s general fund, fire services and debt, with the general fund going up and the debt service going down.

The county would have to roll the millage rate back to 6.252 in order to avoid advertising a tax increase.

Commissioner Bob Ott made a substitute motion to keep the millage rate the same and use one-time economic contingency reserve funds to make up the difference.

Ott warned the public that he didn’t want to hear from “special interest groups” when their services were cut. If the county fails to produce a leaner budget, it could mean a tax hike next year, he added.

In his opinion, the board has a fiduciary duty to balance the budget.

Ott’s motion passed with the support of Commissioners JoAnn Birrell and Bob Weatherford.

This is a Band-Aid, as County Finance Director Bill Volckmann says, referring to the use of reserve funds. It’s just kicking the can down the road and you’re just adding to the can.

It’s going to make 2018 difficult for sure.

Most of the residents who spoke during public comment opposed the increase, pointing to the county’s funding of the new Braves stadium over voter-approved park bonds that would raise money for greenspace.

The motion passed 3-1 with Commissioner Lisa Cupid opposing because the bulk of the money — $11.3 million — had been earmarked for sewer and storm-water infrastructure. Commissioner Bob Ott was absent.

Development Agreement signed by the county and the team on May 27, 2014 included a transportation improvement contribution defined as certain transportation improvements made or to be made by the County costing a minimum aggregate amount of $14 million. The contribution is outlined in Article 7 as a “Transportation and Infrastructure Agreement” with a subsection dedicated to public infrastructure, including “storm water management, water, gas and elections lines and roads.

While the development agreement does provide breadth to include sewer, with respect to their transportation contribution, experts think that this would really cause people to question how direct we are or question our thought in how they turned from transportation oriented projects to the bulk of these projects being for sewer. It’s very frustrating to see the amount of rapidity and creativity that’s been used toward this project but not on other pressing matters that concern our public.

A few said they didn’t mind paying an increase estimated at $12 more on a home valued at $275,000.