County chairman wants a decrease in property taxes
by Jon Gillooly
July 03, 2013 12:02 AM | 2573 views | 11 11 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — County Chairman Tim Lee plans to ask the Board of Commissioners to reduce the county’s millage rate by 0.2 mills on July 23.

The decrease would be reflected in the 2013 tax bills, which go out Aug. 15.

On a home valued at $200,000, the reduction amounts to a savings of $14, said James Pehrson, director of the Cobb Finance Department.

In 2011, the board voted 3-2 with Lee, Woody Thompson and Helen Goreham in favor, to raise the property tax rate from 9.60 mills to 11.11 mills.

Lee said the recession meant that he could either raise taxes or drastically cut services, so he opted for the former approach.

The county has different millage rates for different funds. One is the fire department fund, which pays for the Cobb Fire Department. Another fund is for debt service on almost $50 million in voter-approved bonds used to purchase land for parks. The third is the general fund. Lee tapped all three funds to raise the millage rate in 2011.

For this latest proposal, Lee is leaving the fire and debt service rates the same at 3.06 and .33 mills, respectively, and would only decrease the general fund millage from 7.72 to 7.52 mills.

The reduction would cut the general fund by $4.8 million, Pehrson said. The county adopted a fiscal 2013 general fund budget of $321.8 million.

Lee explained why he is bringing this proposal forward.

“I had promised in January of this year at the State of the County that as revenue numbers improved I would do my best to reverse that millage increase we experienced as quickly as the economy and the budget would allow me to do that,” Lee said. “Although the digest is down from a year ago, we’ve had increased revenues from building-related fees and cost savings from spending reductions to enable us to do what we promised we would do, which is to roll it back .2 mills.”

Lance Lamberton of Austell, president of the Cobb Taxpayers Association and a member of the county’s citizen’s watchdog group that reviews the county’s special purpose local option sales tax program, believes the millage rate should be returned to the 2011 level.

“Maybe it can’t be done in one fell swoop, but I certainly think that with the economy undergoing a certain amount of recovery since 2011 we could be more aggressive than we currently are,” Lamberton said. “I just think that’s a drop in the bucket for what we should have. We need more of a visionary approach towards Cobb County government, and I clearly don’t think we’re getting it under the current administration.”

Lamberton wants to see a closer link between the use of county services and the cost of those services.

“I think there’s too many subsidies that are going on where people who are using county services are not paying for it,” Lamberton said. “I realize that maybe some exemptions can be exercised if you’re on public assistance or whatever. There could be an exemption for that.”

The Cobb Community Transit system, for example, has a budget of $18 million. But only 33 percent of that amount is funded by passenger fares.

“I think that the rate of subsidy should be reduced,” Lamberton said. “Ultimately, I think it should be eliminated. I have a problem with the idea of subsidies per se because that’s a misallocation of resources. It’s a transfer of wealth by force.”

Yet Lee said shaving back the millage by .2 percent is all that can responsibly be done at the moment.

“Sustainable is the important part, not only for today, but I’ve got to be able to maintain it for the ongoing budget going forward,” Lee said. “The digest (total assessed value for all property for tax purposes) went down, so we still aren’t out of the woods in that regard, so because the digest is relatively flat, and we’ve had these minor increases in the other areas, and we’ve been able to keep costs contained, we’re able to do at least .2, and that’s our goal as things improve to roll it back.”

Comments
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kb684
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July 13, 2013
Tim Lee lowering the taxes has to do with elections. A couple years ago, he was threatening to close 13 of the 17 library branches. Cobb employees, including police officers and firefighters, had to take furlough days which reduces their salaries. Cobb employees got a 3% increase last year, but with the 2% increase in FICA, it amounted to only 1% (and Cobb salaries are very low to begin with). There is still a hiring freeze in Cobb County. The employees left are doing the work of the ones who have left and have not been replaced. Good employees give up and leave for other jobs. Cobb should not be rolling back the mill rate but, rather, hire needed employees and pay the police and firefighters more.
Scott Dobbins
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July 05, 2013
Cobb's millage rate for County Services is 11.11 mils. Cobb provides a lot of County Services for this rate. These services are provided by people working a job. Instead of reducing the mils give the County employees a raise. I have lived in Cobb for 50 years, I do not work for Cobb County. I understand and appreciate how much they accomplish. Removing .2 mils will save me less than 50 cents a week. I would rather see it invested into keeping employees because it is just a political gesture to begin with.
kb684
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July 13, 2013
Mr. Dobbins, you are absolutely correct!
Bill H
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July 03, 2013
Wait a moment, doesn't the property tax help finance teachers salaries?

We're laying off teachers as we speak, right?

Class sizes are increasing....again..????

If taxes are so high, why are we constantly having the Cobb BOE asking for more money to fix schools?

Are we gonna wind up with shiny new schools where the students have to sit on the floor due to the lack of teachers?

kb684
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July 13, 2013
Property taxes do not finance teachers' salaries or anything else to do with schools. The education/school tax is a totally separate tax -- look at your tax bill. Also, "shiny new schools" as you put it are built with SPLOST funds.

Hank Moody
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July 03, 2013
Interesting how this got tucked well into the paper, however when Lee wanted to raise the rate the MDJ made the biggest stink out of it...Well not interesting I suppose, typical.
End Mercedes Welfare
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July 03, 2013
The rate of subsidy of CCT shoudl be reduced? Well that would be fine and good if CCT had any legitimate opportunity to earn its own money. However, it don't go nowhere but up and down 41 between Cumberland Mall and the South Loop. Who wants to go there except people who live along 41 and "work" at Cumberland Mall?

How about instead we go after some real money and decrease the subsidy where taxpayers are forced to pay for "public" roads but are then left to purchase, maintain and operate a "private" vehicle to make any use of the "public" road their tax dollars paid for. This sort of government scam used to be known as "taxation without representation".

The drivers of cars all need to pay their own way. All roads should be toll roads. ALL OF THEM!

Stop driving your privately owned cars on my face and over my back!

PUBLIC dollars should pay for PUBLIC transporation, not for roads that require PRIVATE cars!

End Mercedes Welfare today! Why do I pay to pave streets for your Escalade XLSE to be driven to MacDonald's and back because that's all you can afford after making your car payment you can't even afford which you make because I pay most of your way when you drive it? COBB IS FULL OF WELFARE QUEENS DRIVING LEXUS AND DATSUNS! ROAD WELFARE QUEENS!
casual observer
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July 03, 2013
??? Maybe you should ride your bike (not on the road, please, since that would be as bad as my car) to a shrink's office. Check and see if they can determine if you need some professional help...
Roll Back
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July 03, 2013
Thank you commissioner Lee for rolling back the tax. And a thanks to our President for helping the economy recover after the previous President left us in a fiscal disaster.
Economy recover?
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July 03, 2013
What planet are you living on? 47,727,052 people on food stamps since Obama took office, debt Obama took over $ 9,188,640,287,930 and now $16,738,309,305,648,gas prices in 2008 $ 1.86 and now $3.36 and 2009 was the last time it was below $ 2.40. Lowering home taxes leaves the school district in a huge bind. That is okay because the district is now a majority minority so why expect any better? Right? Wrong! This country is failing!
Planet earth
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July 04, 2013
Planet Earth is where the Republicans ruined the economy and tried to blame it on barney Frank who was in the minority at the time. Planet Earth where the right wing blocks every economic plan brought forth by the President. Planet Earth where the Tea party is bent on destroying this great country, that;s the planet I live on. You must be from the moon.
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