MARIETTA — Superintendent Chris Ragsdale quickly shot down board member Jaha Howard’s suggestion Thursday that the district should explore rolling back its millage rate prior to the board’s unanimous approval maintaining the same tax rate as last year.

Howard made the suggestion to explore lowering the rate after hearing Brad Johnson, the district’s chief financial officer, talk about the 5.44% growth in the 2019 tax digest.

“I think it’s always good to explore if there is a way to decrease the millage rate. I think we should always ask ourselves that question — period,” Howard said.

Ragsdale said it is imperative the district keep the millage rate of 18.9 mills, which has been maintained since 2007, to keep up with increasing costs.

“I would always caution the board against ever entertaining reducing the millage rate,” Ragsdale said. “Yes, we are getting more tax revenue with the same millage rate. However, what that allows us to do is cover things like inflation. And you’ve got to remember that in our budget we have utilities, we have fuel costs that are fluctuating. They’re very dynamic.”

The superintendent said, while he realizes other districts may have entertained millage rate rollbacks, it would be “painful” if the district’s financial stability were to sour to then have to suggest a millage rate increase.

Ragsdale’s proposal to keep the district’s millage rate at 18.9 mills, a tax rate increase of 4.88%, means the district will bring in an additional $23 million in property taxes in fiscal 2020 than last fiscal year, according to Johnson.

Johnson said, thanks to an increase in property values, a Cobb homeowner with a $300,000 home can expect to pay about $2,202 in property taxes in fiscal 2020 — that’s about $123 more than they paid a year prior.

The district’s $1.16 billion fiscal 2020 budget was approved in May and is about $90 million larger than fiscal 2019’s budget.

The increased revenue sent to the school district is a result of Cobb County’s growing tax digest. New construction and rising values of existing homes and businesses allow the district to collect more money while maintaining the current property tax rate.

When the district’s tax digest is prepared, Georgia law requires the computation of a “rollback” millage rate, or the tax rate the district would have to levy in order to collect the same amount of revenue as it did the previous year.

Because the school district’s proposed general fund millage of 18.9 is higher than the rollback rate of 18.021, state law requires the school board to advertise the budget as a tax increase as well as hold three hearings to allow the public a chance to weigh in on the issue.

The school board held the final hearing at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday. No one spoke.

The board adopted the millage rate during its 7 p.m. meeting.

Follow Thomas Hartwell on Twitter at twitter.com/MDJThomas

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