The first two of three public hearings regarding the proposed millage rate for property and education taxes in Calhoun drew little interest from the public from Monday.
Mayor Jimmy Palmer, Calhoun City Council members, Calhoun City Schools Board of Education members, and other city and school officials gathered to discuss the proposed rates of 2.60 mills for property tax and 17.733 mills for the school tax once Monday morning and again Monday event.
The meetings drew only a couple of members of the public, and while a couple of questions were asked, no one voice any objections to the proposed rates.
The proposed property rate is an increase of .012 mills, which is a 16.8% increase. The proposed rate would equal an extra $4.80 on the tax bill for someone who owns a home worth $100,000.
City Administrator Eddie Peterson said the area has seen about $21 million in new growth in the past year, and an increase of $89 million in assessed property value. He said the tax digest is about equal to that of 2008, before the recession tanked property values and led to record unemployment rates.
Peterson said he looked at the rates of 64 similarly populate cities and that Calhoun’s was lowest of them all. Calhoun’s proposed rate of 2.60 mills would be the lowest in Georgia for a city with Calhoun’s population.
“You can see these are very small increments to go from 2.48 to 2.60 mills, if the council decides to do that,” said Peterson.
Palmer followed this idea with some numbers of his own. According to Palmer, under the proposed rate a home valued at $100,000 would result in a $104 tax bill in Calhoun, $248 in Dalton and $530 in Rome. The statewide average millage rate would result in a bill of $356.
Palmer also said the city has several needs looming that have not been budgeted for, such as a new police station. Between 35-40% of that project will come from the Special Purpose, Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), but the city will likely take out loans to cover the rest of the cost.
Palmer also said an increased population has led to a need for new employees in several areas; the fire department is in need of newer model trucks, with some being nearly 20 years old; the Calhoun-Gordon County Library needs a new roof, which is projected to cost $30,000 or more; and the columns at City Hall need to be repaired or replaced.
The mayor said the city also wants to continue taking aim at dilapidated properties in Calhoun, noting that 10 such cases will be going to Probate Court next week as the city seeks to take control of such parcels. He also mentioned that the city purchased cyber security insurance that was not originally in the budget to a cost of $15,000.
“We have several needs we have not budgeted for,” Palmer said.
The Calhoun City Board of Education is requesting the current millage rate for schools of 17.733 mills be continued for the 2019-2020 school year. This is not an increased millage; however, this is a 12.21% increase over the rollback millage rate.
When the total digest of taxable property is prepared, Georgia law requires a rollback millage rate must be computed that will produce the same total revenue on the current year’s digest that last year’s millage rate would have produced had no reassessments occurred.
Palmer noted that if the value of one’s home did not change, their school tax bill would remain the same.
Superintendent Michele Taylor spoke briefly during the hearing, saying the school system plans to work on its Early Learning Center, as that building is in need of some safety and facility improvements.
“We looked strongly at what we needed to move forward and continue to provide educational opportunities for our students,” Taylor said.
Palmer also pointed out that the city school system’s student population rose by about 150 students this year, and that Calhoun City Schools still maintains the second-lowest expenditure per student in the state.
“We continue to do more with less,” said Taylor.
A third public hearing on these tax increases will be conducted at the Depot Community Room, 109 S. King St., on Monday, Sept. 23, at 6 p.m.