BOC to discuss millage options

LAWRENCEVILLE - County officials have left to commissioners the possibility of keeping the current millage rate, instead of the usual practice of rolling it back to account for higher property values. But at least two commissioners want to see taxes lowered.

Gwinnett Finance Director Lisa Johnsa did not give a staff recommendation to the millage rate issue during a briefing Tuesday. In prior years, the staff has recommended a millage rate "roll back," because of rising property values.

"I will not recommend either way," Johnsa said after the meeting. "The county can certainly use the revenue. The commissioners are aware of our financial status."

While commissioners did not express their opinions during the session, Chairman Charles Bannister said afterward that his opinion on keeping taxes low has not changed.

"There's not doubt in my mind which way I'm going," he said. "I have no intention for a tax increase at this time."

While homeowners will not have to pay higher county taxes on reappraisals issued this year because of a value offset exemption, state law requires governments to advertise a tax increase if officials do not roll back the millage rate based on increases in values, such as commercial property.

According to one example of a homeowner with a house

valued at $185,100, but with the value offset exemption placing it at $124,400, a roll back would save the taxpayer $9. However, increases in city, state and school taxes would mean a more than $200 increase, Johnsa said.

While the county has just begun developing the 2008 budget, Johnsa said services are scheduled to expand to require more money, and officials are already planning to dip further into the county's reserve fund.

"Any time you've got a situation where your revenues are less than your expenses, you have to be aware of what your revenue options are," she said.

Commissioner Mike Beaudreau said he was interested in limiting the growth of the services, not increasing the tax burden.

"I'm always for lower taxes," he said. "I tend to be conservative about some of the areas we have treaded into. We have some tight days ahead."

While a formal vote on the millage rate will not come until mid-June, officials must begin next week the process of advertising a tax increase if the millage rate is not rolled back.