Oconee County taxpayers will get a second chance to voice their opinions on the county’s plans to approve a property tax rate for 2020 when the Board of Commissioners holds a public hearing before its regular meeting on Tuesday
The proposed property tax rate, or millage rate, will be the same in 2020 as it was in 2019, and the county budget, which went into effect with the beginning of the 2021 Fiscal Year on July 1, has been approved based on that rate.
Because some county property has been assessed at a higher value than last year due to market forces, those property owners with a higher assessment will be paying more tax even though the tax rate remains unchanged.
For that reason, state law requires the county to hold public hearings on the proposed tax rate.
At the first public hearing before the Board of Commissioners Agenda-Setting meeting last week, no citizen came forward either in person or via the live-streamed session.
At that meeting, the Board of Commissioners voted to go forward with the November referendum on the Special Purpose Local Option Sales, gave first reading to a revision of the county’s Animal Services Ordinance, and heard preliminary discussion of proposed roundabouts on SR 53.
The regular meeting of the Board of Commissioners, preceded by the second of three public hearings on the tax rate, begins at 6 p.m. on Tuesday (tomorrow) at the Courthouse in Watkinsville and also will be available via live-streaming.
The county is proposing a millage rate of 6.686 for the unincorporated parts of the county and 7.616 for the incorporated areas, or the area within the county’s four cities.
In both cases, the actual millage rate of 10.566 is being “rolled back” because the county and cities also obtain funds from a one percent Local Option Sales Tax. That rollback is a requirement of collecting the 1 percent sales tax.
State law permits the county to reduce further tax rates for unincorporated parts of the county to offset revenue the cities receive from a tax on insurance companies operating in the state that is over and above the amount the county receives from its tax on insurance companies.
That second rollback produces the differences between the county’s tax rate for the unincorporated and incorporated parts of the county.
Each city also sets its own property tax on top of the county’s property tax.
Impact Of Tax “Increase”
The county’s tax digest has increased to $2,312,437,028 in 2020 from $2,145,653,423 in 2019, or a gain of $166,783,605. Of that increase, $104,478,413 is from property that has not changed in use but has increased in value due to reassessment.
To adjust for the increase, the county would have to lower its millage rate to 6.386 mills in the unincorporated parts of the county and to 7.338 mills in the cities .
The proposed tax increase for a home with a fair market value of $350,000 is approximately $41.40 in the unincorporated parts of the county, according to county estimates.The proposed tax increase for a home with a fair market value of $350,000 in the cities is approximately $38.36.
The third and final public hearing is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Aug. 25 at the Courthouse, and the rate is expected to be adopted in the Agenda-Setting meeting of the Commission to follow.
The Board of Commissioners is unlikely to make any changes in the rate regardless of what happens at the public hearings because it has adopted a budget for the current fiscal year using the increased revenue from the proposed millage rate.
The Board of Education will hold a final hearing on its proposed 16.5 millage rate for the entire county at 5 p.m. on Aug. 10 at the Superintendent’s Office, 34 School Street in Watkinsville.
To compensate for the increased valuation of property, the Board of Education would have to reduce the millage rate to 15.770 mills.
The proposed tax increase for a home with a fair market value of $350,000 is approximately $100.74, according to Oconee County Schools.
Crystal Berisko. manager of Animal Services, reviewed the proposed changes to the county’s Animal Services Ordinance at the Board of Commissioners meeting last Tuesday.
Berisko said the goal was to “more clearly define technical terms, provide clarity, address the growing problems associated with residential pet over population, and maintain the commitment to the mission, vision and values for both the Animal Services operation and enforcement function.”
She said the ordinance has some new definitions, incorporates state law on responsible dog ownership, spells out the duties of the owners to keep animals under control, and elaborates on duties to keep animals under restraint while on and off the owners’s property.
The changes also spell out specific requirements for animal confinement, deal with the number of animals allowed, and clarify what is animal nuisance, Berisko said.
State code on cruelty to animals is incorporated into the new ordinance, she said, and the changes spell out what can be done to manage feral cats.
Second reading and action on the proposed charges are on the agenda for tomorrow’s (Tuesday’s) Commission meeting.
Hog Mountain Road Roundabouts
Jody Woodall, director of Public Works, told the Board last week that he is evaluating responses to a Request For Qualifications from firms interested in the architectural design of two roundabouts located on Hog Mountain Road (SR 53).
The RFQ, which had a June 4 submittal deadline, lists the intersection of Snows Mill Road/Rocky Branch Road with Hog Moutain Road and the intersection of Rays Church Road/Malcom Bridge Road with Hog Mountain Road as locations for the roundabouts.
Woodall said the county had received eight proposals in response to the request.
Four firms were identified as most qualified and have been sent a second phase of the Request for Proposals, he said.
Woodall said he expects to be back before the Board with a recommendation at the end of August.
County Administrator Justin Kirouac said he was before the Board with the “final action in a fairly long process to get the SPLOST vote ready for the November general election.”
The Board has previously approved the Intergovernmental Agreements with the four municipalities that spells out how revenue from the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax will be divided up among the county’s five governments–for the cities and the county itself.
Kirouac said the Commission still needed to approve the referendum ballot language, and he presented them with a document doing just that.
The documents spells out county projects to be funded (for recreation, water and sewer facilities, roads, streets and bridges, farmland protection, fires station and rescue facilities and equipment, historic and scenic facilities, library and administrative facilities, general county facilities, broadband facilities, recreational and park facilities, courthouse facilities, and law enforcement).
The projects of each of the cities also is listed in the document.
The Board approved the referendum language unanimously.
I did not attend the meeting of the Board of Commissioners.
Sarah Bell did attend, and she recorded the video below.
The public hearing on the tax rate is at 0:54 in the video.
Berisko began her summary of the changes to the Animal Service Ordinance at 08:08 in the video.
Woodall talked about the SR 53 roundabouts at 16:33 in the video.
Kirouac discussed the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum at 19:32 in the video.