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Property tax increase on the table in Hall
Officials considering FY16 budget scenarios
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Budgets explained

Tax digest

The total value of all taxable property in Hall County, by which the Hall County Board of Commissioners sets the tax rate for the next fiscal year.

2015 tax digest: $6,657,338,922, including $282,324,211 in growth from reassessments

2014 tax digest: $6,353,337,125

Millage rate

A tax rate applied to the assessed value of real estate. Hall County properties are assessed at 40 percent, and 1 mill equals $1,000 of assessed value. To be revenue neutral, when the tax digest increases due to reassessments, the millage rate should be rolled back.

FY 2015 general fund revenue: $90,268,561 (used $3.6 million in fund balance)

FY 2016 option 1: Keep the current millage rate of 5.989 to get an estimated general fund revenue of $93,828,878 (using $3.5 million in fund balance)

FY 2016 option 2: Roll the millage rate back to 5.735 to get an estimated general fund revenue of $92,179,874 (using $3.5 million in fund balance)


Budget hearings

When: 11:30 a.m. June 18, 4 p.m. June 22 and 6 p.m. June 25

Where: Hall County Government Center, 2875 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville

Hall County officials are considering at least two budget scenarios for the 2016 fiscal year, including a potential property tax increase that could generate about $1.6 million in additional revenue for the general fund.  

The Board of Commissioners will hold three public hearings later this month to work through the scenarios and finalize a budget, which must be done by July 1, when the new fiscal year begins.

The budget scenarios are already causing some division among the Board of Commissioners, with members Scott Gibbs and Jeff Stowe supporting a reduction in the property tax rate, while Billy Powell, Richard Mecum and Kathy Cooper agreed to consider options before moving forward.

“I don’t think any of us have any intention of raising taxes,” Powell said during a work session discussion on Monday.

Officials are considering whether to keep the property tax millage rate in place at 5.989, or approve a rollback to 5.735 to account for increases in revenue from reassessments of commercial, industrial and residential properties this year.

Of more than 4,200 commercial and industrial properties inspected this year, for example, about 60 percent will see a rise in value, according to Chief Tax Appraiser Steve Watson.

Hall County properties are assessed at 40 percent of their value for tax purposes, and 1 mill equals $1,000 of assessed value.

Not rolling back the rate amounts to a tax increase under state law and the county must advertise the prospect of a tax hike even if officials do not wind up approving it.

With a full rollback, the projected revenue for the general fund is $92,179,874, while maintaining the current tax rate would produce an estimated $93,828,878.

Both revenue scenarios include the use of $3.5 million from the county fund balance, which is currently north of $20 million.

The current fiscal year budget is $90,268,561 and includes the use of $3.6 million in reserves.

Each proposal this year also includes a budgeted 2-percent loss on appeals of property reassessments, which will likely reduce revenue when all is said and done.

With or without the revenue from reassessments, the general fund budget will increase for the 2016 fiscal year as a result of new growth and increased sales tax revenues, for example.

Gibbs said he is already committed to no tax increase.

“I was there in the bad times,” he added, referring to 2011 when the county was facing a massive budget deficit. “I just think we’re in a good place now.”

It’s possible that officials could set the tax rate somewhere between the two proposals on the table.

“I think there needs to be some dialogue on this,” said Mecum, the commission chairman, hinting at the contention that keeping the tax rate in place is only an increase in a very technical sense.

Powell made the case for considering all options as a prudent approach despite the blowback he’s likely to receive.

“We have no options unless we advertise,” he added. “I know we’ll get pounded for it.”

Murrayville resident Doug Aiken, a frequent attendee at county commission meetings, urged officials to commit to a full rollback.  

“People need a break,” he said before being cut off by commissioners for speaking too long.

“I’m sorry I burdened y’all,” Aiken retorted.

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