Hiawassee on track to reject rollback tax rate, maintain current millage

News, Politics
Hiawassee City Hall

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Despite higher property assessments, Hiawassee seems to be on track to reject a 2018 rollback millage of 2.170, in favor of retaining the current rate of 2.258.

Hiawassee City Council held a called-meeting on the evening of Aug. 16, to discuss the matter.

In compliance with state law, three public hearings are scheduled to take place; two on Wednesday, Sept. 5, at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and a third at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 6, at Hiawassee City Hall.

CORRECTION: The dates have been changed to Tuesday, Sept. 4, with one held at 10 am, and a second at 2 pm.

The third meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 11, at 6 pm, with the tax rate set at 6:30 pm.

According to presented calculations, retaining the current 2.258 rate would supply the city of Hiawassee with an additional $7,080 in revenue. While the amount is a drop in the bucket compared to the city’s $4.1 million budget, Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales explained to council members at Thursday’s meeting that the increased revenue could, for example, be applied to the continuing construction taking place at Mayors’ Park.

hiawassee taxes

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In addition, Ordiales reminded the council of the 52 parcel owners who had previously slipped below the city’s radar, and have since been billed for delinquent property taxes.

Councilwoman Amy Barrett was the most vocal of the elected officials on Aug. 16, however, raising a valid point that should the current millage rate remain fixed, taxes will, in fact, increase due to heightened property values.

Barrett firmly stated a desire to delay decision until taxpayers are afforded an ample opportunity to offer input.

Councilwoman Anne Mitchell contributed to the dialogue, claiming that as councilmembers, the duty is to act as policymakers, adding, “(The millage rate) is not the citizens decision to make.”

During the meeting, Mayor Ordiales displayed a PowerPoint chart, comparing the millage of Hiawassee to that of surrounding cities. According to the graphic, only Blairsville was listed as lower, at 1.945 mills. The fact that Blairsville boasts an airport was reasoned for the lesser tax rate.

Hiawassee City Council

Hiawassee City Council (L- R) – Patsy Owens, Nancy Noblet, Amy Barrett, Kris Berrong, Anne Mitchell

Councilmembers Patsy Owens and Kris Berrong did not offer clear insight into their positions, although Owens chimed in that maintaining the current rate shouldn’t be considered an increase. Councilwoman Nancy Noblet seemingly shared agreement with Barrett’s opposing stance, occasionally nodding in approval as Barrett spoke.

Of note, Towns County Commission and Towns County Board of Education recently announced a decision to accept their millage rollbacks, with both divisions citing increased property values as the logic behind the drop. The departments have scheduled special called-meetings for next week to finalize the matter.

Public turnout was low at the city’s budget meeting in comparison to monthly work sessions, although several in attendance voiced rejection to the rollback, favoring the current tax rate.

An outspoken newcomer, who was publicly noted as such by Barrett and Noblet, announced that he “does this as a living,” and asserted that he felt it would be “absolutely reckless to even think about rolling back that millage rate,” concluding that property values could potentially decrease in the future, leaving the city with a need to raise taxes in years to come.

Barrett and Noblet responded with recollection of the discord which surrounded the Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation (BRMEMC) franchise “fee” which was repealed late last year, upon opposition from taxpayers, yet readopted by current council once Ordiales replaced it on the agenda, adding bulk to the stance of welcoming a broader range of citizen feedback.

A softer-spoken citizen suggested that accepting the lower rollback rate might be perceived by the public as an attempt to gain “good press” in favor of taking the seven thousand dollar loss. Barrett objected to the notion, adding during the meeting that what might seem like a slight tax hike now has the potential to ultimately expand to a greater increase over time.

In sum, the city of Hiawassee unanomosly agreed to advertise the non-rollback millage of 2.258, and await public opinion at the early September hearings.

Hiawassee City Council will convene for their monthly work session on Aug. 27, at 6 pm, at City Hall. General questions and concerns from the public are traditionally addressed at the meetings.

 

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Robin H. Webb

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Commissioner Bradshaw set to rollback millage rate

News, Politics
Commssioner cliff bradshaw

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw announced an upcoming special-called meeting, scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 23, at 5:30 pm, at the Towns County Courthouse, to set the annual millage rate.

The rate will rollback from 5.375 to 5.197 mills, amounting to $3,919,757 in county revenue.

“My goal is to keep property taxes as low as possible without jeopardizing the services that the county offers, especially public safety,” Bradshaw told FYN, “I feel at this time, with the improving economy and property values, we will be able to maintain the county services that we are accustom to.”

In local government terminology, a millage rate is synonymous with the property tax rate. The term “millage” is derived from a Latin word which means “thousandth.”

Therefore, 1 mill is equivalent to 1/1000th.

Commissioner Bradshaw

Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw

Applied to taxes, 1 mill is equivalent to $1.00 in taxes per $1,000 in property value. If property has a taxable value of $100,000, and assessed at a 1 mill tax rate, the property owner would be required to pay $100.00 in annual taxes.

The standard way to calculate the tax bill, based on the millage rate, is to take the set rate, multiply it by the taxable value of the property, dividing the result by 1,000.

An independent mill rate for Towns County Fire and Rescue, which has been set at 0.500 mill in past years, is expected to decrease to 0.483, resulting in a comparable amount of $364,295 collected during the previous year.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Towns, Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. – For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

 

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Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-487-9027 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com --- News tips will be held in strict confidence upon request.

Tax decal mandate to be enforced

News
Towns County Tax Office

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County will begin actively enforcing a state mandate, O.C.G.A. 48-5-492, which requires the placement of up-to-date tax decal stickers on mobile and manufactured homes. The decals provide proof for field assessors that taxes have been paid.

Noncompliance will result in a citation issued by the Towns County Sheriff’s Office, leading to magistrate court.

Taxpayers are expected to affix the decal sticker, given upon receipt of their annual tax payment, to their mobile or manufactured home within 10 days of obtainment. The decal must be placed on an area of the structure that is visible from the roadway.

The penalty for noncompliance is a $50 fine. Failure to further resolve the issue by complying with the mandate will result in the issuance of a legal citation.

“This is something we want people to come in and take care of,” Elizabeth Dillard of the Towns County Tax Commissioner’s Office told FetchYourNews. “We have no desire to cite and go to magistrate court.”

The citation process is still in the early stages of development, and Towns County is looking to other counties to learn how to best rectify the situation. Towns County government states it will uphold the minimum penalty the state law allows.

“This isn’t something that the county decided,” Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw explained. “We certainly don’t want to cause hardship for families who may be struggling, but we are required to follow state law.”

The Towns County Tax Assessor’s office noted the importance of having the correct out-of-county addresses of part-time residents on file in order to send a notification prior to the matter being forwarded to the Tax Commissioner’s office.

Mobile and manufactured home taxes are due annually before April 1.

The Towns County Tax Office is located at 48 River St. in Hiawassee, next to the Towns County Courthouse.

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Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-487-9027 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com --- News tips will be held in strict confidence upon request.

Commissioner Bradshaw on Towns County Unemployment, Sign Ordinance

News
Commissioner Bradshaw

Hiawassee, GA – Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw held his monthly meeting at the Towns County Courthouse on Tuesday, October 17, 2017. The topics of discussion included the local unemployment rate and a resolution to amend the commercial sign ordinance.

According to research gathered from the Georgia Department of Labor Workforce Statistics, Towns County’s unemployment rate decreased from 6.9% in January of 2017 to 5.8% in August of 2017.

“The unemployment rate is definitely getting better,” Commissioner Bradshaw affirmed.

Statistics obtained from the Towns County Tax Assessors Office show real estate sales have steadily increased, a total of 1,607 residential properties sold between 2014-2016.

Towns County saw an 8.9% increase in tourism dollars between 2007 and 2016. $32.28 million was acquired in 2007, while $48.78 million benefited the economy in 2016. Commissioner Bradshaw expects to see continued growth in the years to come.

Towns County Courthouse

Towns County Courthouse

The tax relief per household from tourism dollars saved residents $862.23 in 2016, an increase from $735.71 the previous year.

Local sales tax revenue continues to increase. An estimated $1,424,225 is anticipated for 2017, up from $1,386,097 in 2016.

Commissioner Bradshaw also announced a resolution to amend the Towns County “Schedule of Fees.” A sign ordinance application review fee for area businesses will occur in the amount of $25.00, with an additional $25.00 cost for the final permit. $3.00 per square foot for each face of the signage will also be applied as well. Commissioner Bradshaw consulted surrounding counties for input on standard rates prior to reaching a decision.

The Commissioner welcomed questions from the citizens, ranging from building code concerns to whether political signs are permitted on Hiawassee Square.

Commissioner Bradshaw concluded the meeting by saying, “My door is always open and I thank you for trusting me. I work for all of you.”

The Commissioner’s meetings are held on the third Tuesday of each month at 5:30 p.m. at the Towns County Courthouse.

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-487-9027 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com --- News tips will be held in strict confidence upon request.

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