Flowery Branch leaders approved next year’s budget along with a tax increase at Thursday’s meeting, but it wasn’t without some dissonance.
“I think it’s time, as a council, for you all to sit down and take a look at the budget and see what you can do to take the burden off me,” said resident Craig Lutz during the public hearing prior to the vote. “Because a couple of those items, like (the title ad valorem tax) and (the local option sales tax) were designed as taxpayer relief items that we never saw.
“And certainly, the taxpayer bill of rights act that was passed — which is making you have to go through this advertisement and these three public hearings — was designed to take the burden off us. And so far, it doesn’t look like you all are working very hard to do that.”
Council members approved Thursday a Fiscal Year 2016 general fund budget at $3.53 million, and kept the city’s millage rate at 3.337.
Due to both property reassessments and new properties coming into the city, maintaining the millage rate results in a 10.39 percent tax increase. For a home with a fair market value of $175,000, this results in an increase of around $22.
Councilman Joe Anglin voted against both the millage rate and budget.
“Just because a person’s home is reassessed higher doesn’t mean that they have more revenue coming into their home,” Anglin said.
Anglin suggested rolling back the millage rate to 3.022, reducing the contribution to the contingency fund to $28,005 and increasing revenue projections, which he said were budgeted conservatively.
However, council members Fred Richards and Mary Jones, along with Mayor Mike Miller, disagreed.
“If you truly want to step back, we can do that,” Jones said. “And we won’t have what we have now. I think it’s great the city has been redone and we’ve got paved streets and so on. That’s something that wasn’t here a long time ago. The city just kind of stayed level all that time. There was no tax increase … but you didn’t get anything.”
Miller pointed to the growing population, and also said the majority of people he has spoken with either approve of the budget or are indifferent.
The 2016 budget includes funds for cost-of-living and merit increases for city employees, along with replacing the sign at the Interstate 985 intersection for $15,000, increasing the hourly rate for the city attorney from $125 to $150 and installing paperless software for the city council at the rate of $600 per month.
Anglin said he didn’t have a problem with the expenditures, but he did not vote for the budget as it included revenue from the tax increase.
The city’s total 2016 budget, which includes the water and sewer fund along with the hotel/motel tax and the countywide special purpose local option sales tax, comes to $8.25 million.