Sugar Hill nixes raise in millage rate

SUGAR HILL - On Monday, the Sugar Hill City Council voted to hold its tax rate steady for an eighth consecutive year.

Despite an anticipated tax revenue drop of 3 percent, the council voted to keep the city's millage rate at 3.8 mills, the rate it increased to in 2001.

"We'll just tighten our belts and do things a little better and a little smarter," City Manager Bob Hail said. "I think holding the line is a good thing to do."

Hail said city tax, about 10 percent of Sugar Hill residents' total tax bill, could have been raised by state formula as much as .11 mills. That would have added about $66,000 to the city's budget.

Instead, Hail believes he can save the city that much by negotiation of city contracts, as well as prudent deployment of city works. More importantly, he believes the city can avert the service cuts Gwinnett warns will be inevitable if its taxes aren't increased.

Hail, who claims he pays his personal credit card in full each month and doesn't finance his personal vehicles, said Sugar Hill should live similarly within its means and not borrow as extensively as some counties.

"I treat this city's money like it's mine," he said of negotiating contracts.

Councilman Marc Cohen agreed, adding, "It's great we're able to hold the line and still grow ... as a city."

Cohen believes Sugar Hill, Gwinnett's fourth-largest city, is an example of a municipality living within its means.

"Don't spend (money) if you don't have it, and don't milk it from the citizens," he said.

The council also:

· Approved property owner Robin Hild's request to revert zoning of her 4.2 acres at 400 Riverside Road, from commercial to residential after its sale to a developer fell through. The property's initial rezoning from single-family residential to general business designation had left her with annual property tax of about $12,000 on her 1,500 square-foot home.

· Postponed vote on a substance abuse policy for city employees, pending Hail's consultations with attorneys.