CANTON — Cherokee County commissioners adopted a slight decrease in the county’s tax rate for Fiscal 2014.
The Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday night to roll back the county’s millage rate for Fiscal 2014 from 9.999 mills to 9.947, a drop of .052, which commissioners said is hoped to offset the recent increases in property values around the county.
The decrease results in only a $2.08 drop in the tax amount charged for each $100,000 in value for a property. For a homeowner in a $200,000 home, the millage change takes the annual bill down from $799.92 with the Fiscal 2013 rate to $795.76 with the 2014 rate, a drop of $4.16.
Within the overall decrease, the millage rate for the county’s general fund was reduced from 5.825 to 5.798, the rate for the fire fund went down from 3.394 to 3.373, and the rate for the parks bond fell from .78 to .776.
As part of the planning for the decrease, county employees are set to receive a 3 percent cost of living increase in pay for Fiscal 2014, which begins Oct. 1.
Commissioners said although the new millage rate results in only a slight decrease, it’s a positive sign to be able to lower the numbers.
“I’m proud of the fact that we could do that,” Commissioner Jason Nelms said, even though the decrease is “negligible.”
Commissioner Harry Johnston said the opportunity is likely a sign of better economic times coming to Cherokee County.
“We appear to be coming out of this economic downturn,” he said. “The tax digest is turning upward again. We’re lowering the rate to compensate for that, but it sure is better to be able to lower the rate to compensate for an increase in the digest than to have to do vice versa.”
Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens said the decrease in the millage rate was positive, especially when put in historical perspective.
Ahrens said the dollar value brought in by the new millage rates for the general fund and the fire district will be only 1.5 percent more than the millage rate in 2008.
“Since 2008, we’ve had a 9 to 10 percent increase in the population,” Ahrens said. “Pretty good point of reference.”
Johnston said the county has a history of keeping the millage rates at bay, and that for the past 13 years — with two exceptions — has only changed the general fund millage rate to compensate for changes in property values.
“Taken as a whole for those 13 years, the average property in Cherokee County that has not seen a physical change or improvement is paying the same dollar amount of general fund property tax … as they did in 2000,” he said. “That’s a pretty good record.”
The overall millage rate for Cherokee County, including that of the school district, will be adopted by the Board of Commissioners in a called meeting at 6 p.m. July 25. The school board is set to vote on its millage rate in a meeting July 24.
During the Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday night, the board also:
• Announced the rescheduling of a public hearing on changes to the plans for the almost 1,400-acre Etowah Community Development project until Aug. 20. Ahrens said the hearing has been rescheduled at the request of the developer;
• Voted unanimously to approve a contract with CW Matthews Contracting Co. for resurfacing on Towne Lake Parkway and Rose Creek Drive for $1,901,794. Cooper said the project had previously estimated to cost $4 million;
• Unanimously approved a construction contract with Georgia Development Partners in the amount of $1,287, 396 for projects at Barnett, Dwight Terry, Sequoyah and Weatherby parks. A contingency of $103,400 is also requested;
• Unanimously voted to accept CDBG funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in the amount of $975,232. Cooper said the county had previously estimated that the funding would be cut about 10 percent this year, but it actually increased;
• Voted unanimously to reduce employee health insurance premium cost by 10 percent for Fiscal 2014 at an estimated cost of $275,000 which will be paid with insurance and benefit fund reserves. This reserve sits at $1.3 million but is expected to total $1.8 million by Oct. 1. The county benefits committee recommended the reduction;
• Unanimously approved a resolution on the Cherokee County Water and Sewerage Authority sharing the costs of dues paid by the county to the Metro North Georgia Water Planning District. Cooper said the dues come in at about $46,000. The county and the CCWSA will split the costs, Cooper said;
• Voted unanimously to decrease the amount of impact fees charged by the county for roads by 90 percent. Commissioners have said the hope is that the reduction will encourage new development in the county; and
• Unanimously approved rezoning 24.7 acres at 233 Dry Pond Lane to agricultural zoning. The land is in Johnston’s district. Johnston said the owners plan to grow food crops on the land.