Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Inflationary Growth In Oconee County Tax Digest Calls For Rollback In School, County Millage Rates To Avoid Property Tax Increases

***County Already Has Agreed To Cuts***

The Oconee County Board of Education will have to roll back its millage rate used to compute property taxes from the current 15.0 mills to 13.934 mills to avoid a tax increase.

The County’s Board of Commissioners will have to decrease its millage rate from 4.824 in the unincorporated parts of the county to 4.483 and from 5.804 in the county’s four cities to 5.375 to avoid a tax increase.

These rollbacks are required to avoid tax increases because 70.1 percent of the $387.3 million growth in the county’s tax digest, or worth of its property, is the result of reassessments, or inflation, and only the remaining 29.2 percent is the result of real change or growth in the digest.

These computations and the required rollback rates are included in the PT-32.1 Computation of Millage Rate Rollback and Percent Increases in Property Taxes 2024 that Oconee County Tax Commissioner Jennifer Riddle has prepared for the two governing bodies.

Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell has stated that the revenue generated by the real growth in the digest will fund the county’s budget and that the Board of Commissioners will approve the rollback rates on July 9.

The proposed rate for the unincorporated parts of the county actually is 4.435, or 0.048 (1.1 percent) lower than required for the rollback.

The Board of Education has approved a final budget that shows the millage rate at its current level of 15.0 and tentatively has set a vote on the millage rate for Aug. 5, allowing time for the three required tax increase hearings if it does not adopt the 13.934 rollback rate.

School Board Budget

The final Oconee County Schools Fiscal Year 2025 Budget, approved by the Board at its meeting on June 10, lists $53,127,141 in revenue from property and ad valorem taxes, based on a millage rate of 15.0.

Superintendent Jason Branch And Board Chair Argo
At Called Budget Meeting 4/15/2024

The budget states that this figure is based on a Net Tax Digest of $3.614 billion.

School Board Chair Kim Argo stated last year that Oconee County Schools assumes that 98 percent of the property tax revenue will be collected. That means the actual estimated Tax Digest in the Fiscal Year 2025 Budget was $3,614,091,224.

A tax digest of $3,614,091,224, with a millage rate of 15.0 would produce $54,211,368 in revenue.

The $53,127,141 shown in the budget is 98.0 percent of $54,211,368.

The actual 2024 tax digest, according to the document produced by Riddle, is $3,594,010,773.

The approved budget overestimated the growth in the county’s Tax Digest by $20,080,451.

The millage rate of 15.0 with that actual Net Tax Digest would produce $52,831,958 (98 percent of $53,910,163), or $295,183 less than shown in the budget.

Impact Of Rollback Rate

If the Board of Education were to adopt the rollback millage rate of 13.934, as would be required to avoid a tax increase, the revenue generated, based on the actual $3,594,010,773 Net Tax Digest, would be 98 percent of $50,078,946, or $49,077,367.

That amount represents a difference of $4,049,774 from the $53,127,141 in projected revenue in the final Fiscal Year 2025 Budget approved by the Board on June 10.

That budget, however, showed revenue exceeding expenditures by $1,673,723. That extra money was budgeted to go into the Fund Balance, or savings.

The budget also reported interest income of $50,000.

The Year-To-Date Budget Report, presented to the Board at its June 10 meeting, however, showed interest income for the first 10 months of the current fiscal year of $2,181,300.

The details of how that interest was earned are not included in the monthly Year-To-Date Budget Report given to the Board.

The Fund Balance that almost certainly produces much of that interest income for June 30 of 2024 of $40 million, however, would be only $1.7 million less on June 30, 2025, without the surplus of income over expenditures shown in the approved budget.

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