In a 4-1 vote with south Cobb Commissioner Lisa Cupid opposed, commissioners lowered the property tax rate by 0.2 mills. That’s a savings of $6 annually for a home valued at $100,000, $14 for a $200,000 home and $38 for a $500,000 home.
Cupid says she’s concerned about the loss of revenue to the county. The county will lose $4.3 million by lowering the rate that sets property taxes.
The average home price in Cobb is $158,000, Cupid said.
“We’re looking at about $10 for each homeowner,” she said. “For that, what is it worth to see our public right-of-ways mowed? For that, what is it worth to see the hours of some of our facilities lengthened?”
Chairman Tim Lee responded to Cupid’s worries by recalling the discussion that took place when the millage was increased in 2011. Lee said the board promised to lower the property rate when it was possible.
“Our budget moving forward is sustainable,” he said.
Commissioner Bob Ott, who represents southeast Cobb, wants to see the rate lowered more.
“I would hope that you would continue that commitment to try to lower it,” Ott told Lee during the vote Tuesday night.
The board increased the millage rate when property values fell leaving the county with less tax revenue.
Lee believes increased revenue from fees and cost-cutting measures put into place during the Great Recession will absorb that cost without hitting any county department.
“I believe we have hit the bottom,” Lee said. “Indications are we are turning the corner and are improving.”
Incentives for south Cobb and Canton Road
Commissioners also hope to foster redevelopment in some depressed areas throughout Cobb.
The board unanimously voted to establish two enterprise zones, with one in South Cobb, including Six Flags Drive and Veterans Memorial Highway, and another on Canton Road.
Enterprise zones can be created under state law and encourage private businesses to renovate or rehabilitate older structures and generate better employment opportunities by offering business owners incentives that include up to a 10-year graduated tax abatement of the county property taxes excluding school taxes. Approved companies would get a full tax break for between one and five years, gradually decreasing by 20 percent annually.
They will also benefit, if approved, from a $5,000 cap on building permits and a $1,000 cap for business license fees each year for between one and five years.
Canton Road has been considered an enterprise zone since the late 1990s, but because it was never made part of the county’s official code, no businesses could receive incentives offered under the designation, said Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, who represents the area.
Under state law, local governments can designate as enterprise zones areas that meet at least three criteria, including an unemployment rate that is at least 10 percent higher than the state’s rate, underdevelopment, crime and safety issues and general blight.
Carol Brown, of the Canton Road Neighbors civic group, thinks those designations give the area a bad name.
“We feel that at least in our area those may have been disincentives for businesses looking to relocate,” Brown said, adding the community is improving without the help of the zone.
Birrell agrees the area is recovering from the recession, but says the tax incentives are still valuable.
“This is another tool or resource we can use to attract other businesses or maybe small businesses that don’t have the funding, or the pockets if you will, that don’t have the resources of the big box stores,” Birrell said.
Cupid echoed that sentiment.
“At the end of the day, this is about job creation,” Cupid said.