County millage rate may drop

LAWRENCEVILLE - For the 13th year in a row, county finance officials are recommending commissioners roll back the Gwinnett millage rate, which could reduce taxes for homeowners by a few dollars.

Rises in property values increased the county's tax digest by $548 million, but officials recommend rolling back the millage to avoid a tax increase, as is mandated by the state Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

"I think it sends, at this time, a good message to the taxpayers of Gwinnett County," Chairman Charles Bannister said. "Even though the valuations are out there, they won't see an increase in taxes."

But Commissioner Bert Nasuti said the county's trend of rolling back taxes cannot continue with the increase in the cost of services.

"Our expenses don't roll back and never have," Nasuti said. "I'm all for lowering taxes, but one reason things are so high now is because we do this every year. ... I think we need to re-evaluate how we do this."

Although the county portion of tax bills has decreased 41 percent since 1990, homeowners have seen bills increase over the years because the school system does not follow the county government's roll back trend.

School officials have recommended continuing the combined millage rate of 20.55 for 2008, while county officials recommend a rollback of 0.08 to 0.12 to 11 or 10.96 mills.

For a house appraised at $185,1000, there would be a $5 reduction in the county portion of the bill, according to staff.

Commissioners will adopt the budget next month, with bills going out on July 15 - the day three of the five commissioners will be on primary ballots.