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Snellville city leaders fail to agree on property tax millage rate

SNELLVILLE -- City council members and Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer did not reach a majority vote on whether to raise, lower or maintain the property tax millage rate in the city Monday evening.

City manager Russell Treadway recommended raising the millage rate to 6.19 mills from 5.9. While the millage rate would have increased, the actual amount of tax revenue the city would collect based on 6.19 mills would be lower than last year, since property values have decreased throughout the city.

Mayor pro tem Barbara Bender made a motion Monday following Treadway's recommendation, asking her colleagues to vote to approve a 2011 millage rate of 5.7. Oberholtzer and council members Kelly Kautz and Mike Sabbagh voted against Bender's recommendation, while councilmen Tod Warner and Tom Witts sided with Bender.

The tie vote left the floor open for another council member to make a motion, and Kautz moved to keep the millage rate the same at 5.9. By the same split vote, that motion failed.

City attorney Tony Powell did not attend Monday's council meeting because of a family emergency, and his substitute told Oberholtzer that he would have to check the laws governing setting property tax millage rates.

Some on council believe that with no majority vote on the matter Monday, the rate stays the same as last year's by default. If that is not the case and a definitive action is required by the mayor and council, a special-called meeting must be called to put the matter to a vote again.

Gwinnett County has a deadline of July 19 for the city to set the millage rate and inform the county.

In a display of dissension not seen from Snellville City Council members in many months, Kautz accused Bender of political pandering with her attempt to lower the millage rate for 2011. Bender threw her hat in the ring months ago for the upcoming mayoral election in November. Earlier in the meeting, Kautz also raised questions about Bender's bid for mayor being featured on volunteer T-shirts at the Star Spangled Snellville event celebrating Independence Day.

Bender stood by her recommendation to lower the millage rate and denied any political motivation behind the move.