Mil­lage rate stays same for prop­erty tax bills

The Standard Journal - - FRONT PAGE - By Kevin Myrick Ed­i­tor

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

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