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Tax hike lower than originally thought

By Kay S. Pedrotti After three lightly attended public hearings, the Lamar County board of commissioners last week approved several resolutions about taxes — including a 2015 millage rate of 11.512, up one mill from last year. County sources said the increase is now 9.09%, down by 2.24% from the original proposal of a 1.236 mill increase that figured out to 11.33%. The average increase for taxpayers is $40 per $100,000 of property value. In the last public hearing Sept. 1, two people spoke against the increase but gave commissioners credit for their efforts to reduce expenses. Lamar’s total tax digest increased slightly from 2014, to $462,555,835 in 2015, according to figures from the tax assessors’ office. This is a matter of lack of revenue, not overspending, said chairman Charles Glass. Each county department, excluding salaries, received a 5% across-the-board cut in their budgeted amounts, and actual expenses projected are less than last year’s, he said. Two previous public hearings drew a total of nine people to speak on the subject. A speaker at the Sept. 1 meeting, Thelma Smith, was concerned that few people attend even the regular meetings to find out about county business. Karl Heidbrink asked the commissioners, ‘Where are the spines’ willing to vote against the proposed increase. Commissioner Van Baker said ‘this is tough on all of us,’ citing that even his business experience had little resemblance to being a county commissioner. ‘Everybody ought to be a commissioner,’ he added. Another resolution passed by the board approved the 11.512 as a local sales tax ‘roll-back’ amount, from the gross millage rate on the digest of 13.392. The resolution is governed by Georgia Code Section 48-8-80, which states ‘all revenue realized by Lamar County and the participating municipalities located therein from said sales and use tax shall be applied against the local tax rate structure in such a way as to reduce the amounts of the total ad valorem tax bills’ in Lamar. Two other resolutions, mandated for approval by the board of commissioners, dealt with school board tax figures. The school tax digest amount is $470,892,534, the value of property taxable for educational purposes in the county. The two digest amounts for tax purposes differ because exemptions are different for each, said Dr. Jute Wilson, school superintendent.The school board millage is 16.716 for maintenance and operations budget, and 2 mills for repaying the $2 million bond approved in 2011 for system improvements, the resolutions stated.

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