Millage rate stays same for property tax bills
Polk County commissioners settled on a 2-1 vote for a millage rate for this year’s tax bills at 11.061, going back to the rate that was set for 2016.
It was an option put forth by Commissioner Scotty Tillery during an already busy night in a packed Board of Commis- sioners meeting room to settle several items on the agenda before the board.
Tillery, who near the end of the discussion of a rate of 11.094 mills, brought back up again by Commissioner Jennifer Hulsey after motions by Chuck Thaxton for an 11.094 mill rate.
Annually, more than $1.4 million from insurance premium taxes will go toward funding for the Polk County Police Department, as it has in the past. It was also approved as part of the millage rate this year.
Motions were brought up for several and without seconds died for lack of support until finally Chuck Thaxton went with the 11.094 rate by adding his second to her first motion.
Later, Hulsey withdrew it to go with the 11.061 rate, which is a tax decrease since the overall tax digest went down in value over the past year.
Hulsey began the meeting by expressing her concerns over the approval of the agenda, and said she didn’t feel comfortable in making votes on the items before the board for consideration, including the millage rate for county and school board property taxes. Commissioner Stefanie Drake Burford, set to come to what was expected to be her last meeting. She told the Standard Journal by text message that she had gotten stuck in Marietta area due to heavy rain showers.
Burford sent a written resignation effective Aug. 31.
“I’m wondering if we should table these votes,” she said before any motion was made. “We only have four members of the board, and I know that it’s still a quorum, but I don’t know if I feel comfortable making all these votes tonight.”
Commission Chairman Marshelle Thaxton cited requirements in order to be able to get the tax digest approved and signed for both the county and the school board as necessary votes, ones that can’t be put off. The school board kept their rate at 16.15 for this year’s tax bills.
“I have to go sign that tomorrow (Aug. 31),” Thaxton said.
Additionally a grant to approve funding for part of Polk County’s portion of the Tallapoosa circuit Drug Court also needed approval since it was being distributed to the county in coming days, County Manager Matt Denton added.
The agenda was approved 2-1, with Commissioner Chuck Thaxton giving his approval along with Tillery, while Hulsey opposed the agenda. Later, all three commissioners voted to approve the grant for the drug court.
The commission were also divided and an attempt to cut money from the Polk County Health Department budget was also put forth, an item the chair explained was added to the agenda as a cost-saving measure. It was the first item on the agenda after the District 1 commission candidate question and answer session, and began with an explanation about why the board chair wanted to make the cut.
Had t he commission gone with an 11.094 mill rate for 2017, Marshelle Thaxton explained that an $70,000 cut from the coun- ty’s annual contribution to Northwest Georgia Public Health from $180,000 to $110,000 would have been available to make up for a shortfall in net tax revenue from the rate the commission rolled back from off the advertised rate of 11.238 mills.
“Over the past year and a half, we’ve been trying to get the Rockmart office open back up, and me and Matt (Denton) have done everything but throw them in the trunk of the car and drag them off,” Marshelle Thaxton said. “But we have not cut the budget any this past year and they provide no services in Rockmart. None.”
The chair wanted use some of the money being saved by cutting the county’s contribution amount to pay for the loss of revenue incurred against the tax digest this year, while additionally proposing to set some aside for emergency funds likely needed for paying bills associated with the treatment and care of the numerous dogs found between two properties on Cashtown Road and Puckett Road sites earlier in the week.
“I’m afraid we’re going to be in the dog business for the next few months.” Thaxton said.
Tillery, who opposed the idea, said he came up with thoughts for both sides of the argument since no explanation was provided for the measure on the agenda, which he said he only received Tuesday ahead of the Wednesday night meeting.
Despite the short notice, Tillery presented information from the Georgia Department of Health’s website about the county’s ranking among the state, which has gone up and down over the past five years, but sits at 118th as of the 2016 ranking completed by the state via a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study. He added too that the number of people already served for the past fiscal year was 10,057, and that 30 percent of all people seeking care at the Health Department office in Cedartown are turned away for treatment.
With these examples and others, Tillery said he wanted more time to study the issues before making any cuts to their budget and using the money elsewhere.
“It concerns me with the rank that we’re at with our county in our state, it (a cut to the budget) concerns me,” Tillery said.
Chuck Thaxton asked how long the health department office in Rockmart had been closed, which shut its doors in July 2016.
“Before that it was only operating maybe two days a week, and most of what they were doing in Rockmart was WIC (Women, Infants and Children program),” Marshelle Thaxton added.
Commissioners also approved an amendment to the personnel policy over the amount of years required to regain seniority for employees who previously quit and returned to employment.
There was no consideration of how to fund the fire plan during the Aug. 30 session.
Residents fill the Polk County Board of Commissioners meeting room to hear what commissioners proposed to do with the millage rate. Kevin Myrick / Standard Journal