Gainesville City Council Meeting
When: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Room A, Georgia Mountains Center, 301 Main St., Gainesville
The millage rate for Gainesville City Schools will be lower this year, but most homeowners still will see an increase in their property tax bill this fall because the city's overall millage rate will go up.
City council members will hear about the school tax rate today, school board members will approve the final adoption of 7.39 mills on Monday and new bills will roll out to residents in late October.
"The millage serves two parts for us - operations and maintenance, which includes salaries and electricity, or the funding you need to educate a child in the classroom," said Janet Allison, the school system's chief financial officer. "It also includes school bond debt, and we currently only have one issue, which went to build schools in 1993."
The school system has only one more payment to make and will pay the remaining $1 million in January.
"We vote on the final adoption Monday night, and I'll immediately call the city the next day so they'll be ready to go to their final reading on Tuesday," Allison said. "I would have liked to get this approved in September, but this was the earliest we could work it out and have two weeks between the tentative proposal and the final adoption."
The 7.39 rate is 0.02 lower than last year, which equates to $2 per $100,000 of assessed property value.
"It won't be a lot of change to a bill, but it does show good faith," Allison said. "With the economy the way it is and where we were coming from with debt before the economy hit, we're trying to show that we're traveling in that direction as we promised."
The school board decreased last year's rate by 0.1 mills, but the year before saw an increase because the system had an estimated $5.6 million deficit. The gradual decrease in the millage rate since then shows the reduction in debt obligation, Allison said.
When bills arrive in October, however, the city government's millage rate will go up by 0.26 mills, or $26 per $100,000. The increase is necessary to balance the $25.5 million budget for the 2011 fiscal year, city staff said.
"The increase in the millage came from the need to cover additional public safety positions," said Melody Marlowe, the city's administrative services director.
In 2009, the city accepted a federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Responder grant, which allowed the department to hire 18 new firefighters. The grant required that the city maintain a certain level of staffing for the fire department, which could lead to a millage rate increase to accommodate the extra staff.
The council held three public hearings about the proposed budget changes in May and June, and council member George Wangemann expressed his opposition to the millage rate increase.
"My opposition to the increase has nothing to do with my support of the fire department," Wangemann said at a June meeting. "I said (in 2009) that I did not support (accepting) the grant because of the possibility of a tax increase."
The increase is the first the city has had in six fiscal years. In 2005, the millage rate was 1.69 mills. The number dropped every year until it plateaued in 2008 at 1.43 mills, where it remained until the current budget proposal was presented.