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County to bump up millage rate
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The Bryan County Board of Commissioners announced Thursday a plan to increase property taxes for the 2008 fiscal year. Three public hearings will be held for public input:

- Aug. 20, at 4 p.m. at the Bryan County Courthouse, Commissioners Meeting Room;

- Aug. 20, at 7 p.m. at the Richmond Hill Courthouse Annex; and

- Aug. 27, at 9:30 a.m. at the Bryan County Courthouse.

The county portion of the millage rate is increasing to 6.911 mills over the previous rollback millage rate of 6.473, County Administrator Phil Jones said.

He said that’s an increase of less than .500 mills, which should help generate an estimated revenue of $400,000-600,000 for the county budget.

"I think that it’s a good thing. It was certainly required this year," Jones said.

The county received $16.4 million in funding requests from various departments for the upcoming fiscal year. Commissioners are looking at a projected $2 million shortfall
in large part because of the homestead exemptions approved by voters last year – but have looked at increasing fire fees among other measures to make up the difference.

"There was a homestead exemption increase of $30,000 for everyone who qualified and a $50,000 exemption for those 65 and older…We had $158 million that is now new write-off. That equates to $1,250,331 in terms of actual (revenue) dollars lost," Jones said at the commissioners meeting on Aug. 7.

"Dollar-wise, last year’s approved budget was $15.3, million, this would be $16.4, about a 10 percent increase," Jones said.

Roughly $10.5 to $11 million of the budget goes to cover personnel costs, he said.

These costs include things like new jailers, a county finance person, a new zoning administrator, heating and air conditioning for county buildings, benefits packages, fuel, and company vehicles.

Jones said the tax increase for property owners in general should not be affected, "unless you’re on a very high end piece of property."

Property values up to $500,000 will not see a tax increase if they have qualified for a homestead exemption, said Debbie Newman, tax commissioner for Bryan County. But, businesses and properties that do not qualify for the exemption will see an increase.

"The new millage rate will bring up taxes about 17 cents per $1,000 of assessed property values," Newman said. But she feels the increase is "not going to be too bad."

"Anytime you have a tax increase, it’s detrimental to somebody," Jones said. "(The county is) doing the best it can do under some difficult circumstances."

To configure the exact amount of the new county millage rate, Newman took last year’s rate and figured it at $2.59. This year’s rate will be $2.76. The school district has tentatively set their millage rate to a rollback of 13.572, bringing that down about two cents from last year.

"So really, the tax increase will only be about 15 cents, if everybody adopts what they’re saying they’re going to adopt," Newman said.

Last year’s total combined millage rate was 20.337; this year it is projected to be 20.773.

The cities of Richmond Hill and Pembroke have not yet levied their millage rates, but will be letting Newman know those numbers once they have been computed.

Jones said Bryan County has lower taxes compared to other surrounding counties.

According to the Georgia Statistics System most recent stats, in 2005 Bryan County’s millage rate ranked 36th lowest of all 159 counties. Out of surrounding Chatham, Liberty, Effingham, Bulloch, and Evans counties, Bryan ranked third lowest. In terms of school millage rates for the county in 2005, Bryan County had the 96th lowest rate in the state.

Millage rages are expressed in mills, which are one thousandth of a dollar. A millage rate of .001 is expressed as one mill. One mill is equal to one dollar for every $1,000 of assessed value.

To assess a millage rate, take the fair market value of property and multiply it by 40 percent, minus any exemptions, Newman said. Homestead exemptions apply to anybody that has primary residence in Bryan County, with one homestead exemption allowed per family, she said.

The public hearings are required by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights when the county chooses to adopt a millage rate that exceeds the rollback rate.

Here's what the county's press release said:


The Bryan County Board of Commissioners today announces its intention to increase the property taxes it will levy by 7.13 percentage over the rollback millage rate.

Each year, the board of tax assessors is required to review the assessed value for property tax purposes of taxable property in the county.  When the trend of prices on properties that have recently sold in the county indicate there has been an increase in the fair market value of any specific property, the board of tax assessors is required by law to re-determine the value of such property and increase the assessment.  This is called a reassessment.

When the total digest of taxable property is prepared, Georgia Law requires that a rollback millage rate must be computed that will produce the same total revenue on the current year’s new digest that last year’s millage rate would have produced had no reassessments occurred.

The budget tentatively adopted by the Bryan County Board of Commissioners requires a millage rate higher than the rollback millage rate.  Therefore, before the Bryan County Board of Commissioners may finalize the tentative budget and set a final millage rate, Georgia Law requires that three public hearings be held to allow the public an opportunity to express their opinions on this increase.

All concerned citizens are invited to the public hearings on this tax increase to be held at the following locations at the indicated times:  August 20, 2007 at 4:00 p.m. at the Bryan County Courthouse, Commissioners Meeting Room in Pembroke, Georgia; August 20, 2007 at 7:00 p.m. at the Richmond Hill Courthouse Annex in Richmond Hill, Georgia; and August 27, 2007 at 9:30 a.m. at the Bryan County Courthouse, Commissioners Meeting Room in Pembroke, Georgia.

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