LAWRENCEVILLE -- Gwinnett's property tax dip is not as steep as officials expected this year.
Gwinnett's Chief Appraiser Steve Pruitt told commissioners Tuesday that numbers show about a 6 percent decline in the county's property tax digest.
While thousands of appeals are still pending, Pruitt said he expects the digest of all county property to be $23.6 billion, instead of the $22.8 billion projected two years ago.
"I'm still holding my breath, but it looks more hopeful," Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said.
Based on the numbers, officials prepared two possible scenarios for county property taxes: either remaining at 13.02 mills, which would mean a nearly $15 million loss in revenue compared to 2011, or "rolling up" the property tax rate to 13.80 mills.
State tax laws allow governments to remain revenue neutral without advertising a tax increase. Finance Director Maria Woods noted that the county's median home value remains at $170,000, which would mean an average increase in taxes of $45.24 for those whose tax values remained the same.
But Nash said she had no intention of allowing that to happen. She based her 2012 budget on the county millage rate remaining the same.
"I haven't changed my mind since then," she said.
After months of work to trim expenses, commissioners adopted the 2012 budget with no expected use of fund balance. However, a service delivery lawsuit settlement with local cities promised an $11 million pay out from the county government. According to finance officials Tuesday, the budget now calls for using $6.3 million out of the rainy day fund, although the numbers were based on the steeper property tax decline.
Declining property assessments have troubled local governments since the housing market bubble burst in 2008. Earlier this year, officials said about 80,000 of Gwinnett's 257,000 residential properties decreased in value. On average, those homes decreased in value by 22 percent. Nearly 22,000 appeals were filed for residential property, with another nearly 4,000 for commercial property.
School board members are expected to vote on the school portion of taxes this week, and have advertised keeping the millage rate the same. County commissioners will make the final decision on the government rate July 17, with tax bills expected to be mailed Aug. 15 and due Oct. 15.