MARIETTA — A week after announcing a proposal to lower the county’s tax rate, Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee announced Tuesday night that he would recommend an even lower rate.
Lee told the MDJ on June 21 that he would propose a general fund millage rate of 6.82 mills — down from the current 7.12 mills — while the fire service rate and debt service rate would each go down by 0.1 mill to 2.96 and 0.23 mills, respectively. The decreases, he said, were due to the county’s projected growth in the 2016 tax digest, which was estimated to be 8.5 percent higher than 2015’s digest.
At Tuesday’s meeting of the Cobb Board of Commissioners, Lee announced he was to propose an even lower general fund millage of 6.66 mills. That would bring the millage to the current “rollback” rate, which is the rate the county would have to levy in order to collect the same amount of revenue as it did the previous year.
“A few days after (my announcement), we got some finite numbers on what the actual net number would be, and it was slightly better than what we thought it would be. As such, we’re going to be able to roll the millage for the general fund back to 6.66, which is basically rolling back the millage to offset the growth in the net digest,” Lee told the MDJ after Tuesday’s meeting.
Lee’s amended proposal would still lower the fire service rate to 2.96 mills and the debt service rate to 0.23 mills.
The county’s budgeting process involves adopting a budget for the fiscal year in the fall, normally in September. This adopted budget recommends a property tax rate based on the county’s projected costs and revenue needs. It is not until the following summer, normally in July, that the Board of Commissioners votes to approve a property tax rate.
Lee said he believed the county could operate normally under the revenues to be collected under the proposed millage. “As long as our economy is expanding, we can maintain the lower millage rate and still fund everything we need to do,” he said.
Last week, the county’s three Republican district commissioners — District 4’s Lisa Cupid is the sole Democrat on the commission — say they supported the proposal Lee had made at the time. Among them was Commissioner Bob Ott, who said that while he was supportive of reducing the millage rate, he wanted to see a greater reduction.
“I agree with lowering the millage, but I think it should be lowered to the full rollback rate. Anything short of a full rollback rate is a tax increase,” Ott said at the time.
Tuesday night, Ott said he had not talked to Lee about his latest millage proposal, but said he was in support it being lowered to the rollback rate.
“In the past, I’ve talked about that we need to kind of re-examine the priorities and how we spend money, but we certainly don’t need to be increasing the revenue. I totally support rolling it back to the rollback rate,” Ott said. “I think the biggest issue we have is priorities. (The commission has) had numerous discussions on performance-based budgeting, priority-based budgeting, whatever you want to call it, and those discussions kind of stalled. They need to be ramped back up, because we really need to make sure we spend the money on the No. 1 priorities and go down the list from there.