Public hearings are set for a proposed county millage rate increase for Richmond Hill residents, according to a press release sent Monday by the Bryan County Commission.
Commissioners will vote on the proposed increase at their August meeting, after public hearings at 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Aug. 2 at the county court house in Pembroke, and 6 p.m. Aug. 9 at the South Bryan Administration Building.
The announcement apparently took Richmond Hill officials by surprise.
Richmond Hill Mayor Russ Carpenter said Monday that Bryan County’s announcement of a proposed tax increase on Richmond Hill residents was unexpected.
“We are as shocked as anyone,” Carpenter said. “This is the first I’ve heard of a tax increase. Based on our analysis of the county’s financial records, it is our determination that taxes should be lowered county-wide, as opposed to raising taxes on Richmond Hill only. We will challenge this.”
The county said the measure is aimed at equalizing the millage rate across the county, noting “in order to ensure equal taxation as it relates to service delivery the commission must equalize the millage rate across the county, which means raising Richmond Hill’s rate and slightly decreasing the millage rate in the tax districts of Pembroke and the unincorporated area,” the press release said.
If commissioners approve the increase, it would bump up taxes in incorporated Richmond Hill by 0.937 mills to 8.8 mills.
That’s an increase of about $28.20 in taxes for a home with a fair market value of $150,000, while the increase for a home of the same value without a homestead exemption is approximately $56.22, according to the press release.
“This millage rate equalization across the county is necessary for several reasons,” the county said. “In the county’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget, property taxes exclusively pay for county-wide services, such as the sheriff’s department, courts, the county road system, elections, emergency medical services, libraries, recreation, tax assessor, tax commissioner and more. These services are provided to all citizens of the county and some are even established as county-wide services by legislation or case law. Since property taxes fund a portion of these services exclusively — and that this is clearly reflected in the budget — the property tax millage rate must be the same across the board, to avoid one area of the county paying more for these services than others,” the release said.
Bryan County Commission Chairman Carter Infinger urged residents to attend one of the three public hearings if they have questions.
“Bryan County prides itself on delivering quality county-wide services to all residents in an efficient manner. We know our citizens understand the necessity for everyone to pay the same price for these services, which is why the millage rate had to be equalized across the county,” Infinger said.
All three governments are apparently still set to enter mediation the delivery of services such as water and sewer to residents. They have until Oct. 31 to reach an agreement.