Duluth adopts tax millage rate without rollback

DULUTH - The Duluth City Council on Monday set a 2008 tax millage rate of 5.191 mills, the same as last year's.

The rate does not reflect a rollback to offset an increase in property valuations, so some property owners whose values increased this year will see their taxes go up.

At the final of three public hearings, Duluth homeowner Elise Whitworth asked why property values are going up when the housing market is going down.

"Property tax assessments were conducted by the Gwinnett County Tax Assessor before the current crunch hit," Councilman Doug Mundrick said. Property was assessed based on its value as of Jan. 1, he said.

Gwinnett County, which collects taxes for the city, will be sending out tax bills in August with payments due in the fall. Mundrick also said that property owners who disagree with their assessments can file an appeal with the county.

The council adopted a $38 million city budget that went into effect Tuesday and continues through June 30, 2009.

Councilman Greg Whitlock said city department heads were charged by the council to focus on "needs instead of wants" when submitting their budget requests.

In other business:

n Due to increased fuel costs, the council approved transferring $27,000 to cover vehicle expenses in April and May.

n The council increased reimbursement for business travel in personal vehicles to 58.5 cents a mile and to 27 cents a mile for medical mileage.

n The council raised the cost of trash bags because anticipated revenue from franchise fees will not cover the anticipated cost of the city's trash bag subsidy.

n A moratorium on accepting special-use permits in the Highway Commercial district was extended by the council until Aug. 31.

An overlay that establishes guidelines for development along the Buford Highway corridor has been drafted and is being considered by the planning commission. It is expected to come up for a council vote in early August. If approved, the moratorium would be lifted. An overlay for downtown is also being prepared.

n The council passed an ordinance that allows the city to start collecting 3 percent excise taxes on car rentals with the revenue designated for promoting commerce and tourism. The funds may also be used for capital projects.