Hall County may increase residents’ property taxes to fund improvements in fire services, including a new fire station, personnel and equipment.
The news came at an open house Tuesday held by District 3 Commissioner Scott Gibbs at the North Hall Park & Community Center. County officials have said they’re not anticipating an increase in property taxes for the general fund.
The fire fund millage rate for residents living in the cities, or the incorporated areas of the county, would rise from 3.08 to 3.83. For those living in unincorporated areas, the rate would go from 1.65 to 2.40. One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 in assessed property value. The county uses 40 percent assessed value.
The owner of a $200,000 house would see an increase of $60 a year.
County officials said the increase was not set in stone and they are considering a roll-up as well.
The increase would pay for moving the fire station currently on Short Road, building another fire station on Shirley and Mount Vernon roads, hiring 15 firefighters and buying equipment.
Gibbs said some residents’ fire premiums went from $3,000 to $8,000 because there wasn’t a fire station close by. The county is trying to make sure residents have lower fire insurance premiums as a whole and quicker ambulance times.
“When you’re opening up a whole new fire station, which dramatically affects people’s fire premiums and response times for ambulances and fire trucks, it takes 15 people to staff one fire station,” Gibbs said. “I was trying to correlate with ambulances. It’s over $500,000 for every ambulance you put on the road.”
Benefits to residents include better insurance rates and faster response times. Most of the capital expense will come from special purpose local option sales tax revenue.
Attendees had questions for county staff, but none had any questions about the proposed property tax increase.
Paul Loggins, a corporate investigator with Northeast Georgia Health System, said he knew of businesses in Hall County and Gainesville that don’t pay sales tax to the county.
“Within just a very short drive of where we all are now is two local businesses, one owes $145,000 in sales tax revenue that has not been submitted to the Revenue Department, another one owes $50,000 that has not been submitted to the Revenue Department,” Loggins said. “Certainly I’m not in favor of closing businesses down with this economy, but what I would like to see is businesses being held financially accountable to pay the taxes that they are collecting from every customer that goes in.”
Margaret Jenkins, of Murrayville, said she would rather see the county collect taxes from all residents and businesses before the county raises property taxes.
“I think they really need to get onto the people that aren’t paying their taxes,” she said. “Because we pay our taxes and I think everybody else should.”
North Hall resident Jim Hardman said he understood the reason for raising taxes on the fire fund. He said he knows people whose insurance rates have significantly increased because of the lack of a nearby fire station.
“I think it’s something we need to look at,” he said. “I’d like to see some more information on that.”
A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for Thursday. Hall County Commissioners are expected to approve the 2014 budget before the fiscal year starts on July 1.