Here are the official minutes of the Aug. 10 special called meeting for the specific purpose of holding a public hearing about the tax increase represented by the proposed millage rate.
A. 2023 Maintenance and Operation Millage Rate
This was the first of three required public hearings before Council could adopt a millage rate, Finance Director Paul Salvatore began.
The millage rate was broken into two components: the Maintenance and Operations (M&O) millage rate and the bond millage rate.
The proposed M&O millage rate remained the same at 6.043 mills, and the bond millage rate was 0 because they had paid off their bond debt several years ago.
He presented an 11-year history of the millage rate, showing how it peaked at 7.178 mills in 2012 during the recession.
Over the years Council had reduced the millage rate by a total of 1.135 mills to its current 6.043, which was where it had been the last two years.
He added that if the millage rate was still at the 2012 level of 7.178 mills, they would be getting about $4.1 million more in City taxes. This lowering of the millage rate saved the average homeowner about $230 a year.
Another chart showed the total millage rates in all the jurisdictions in Fayette County. Salvatore pointed out that Peachtree City was right in the middle, even though it was a full-service city with its own Police and Fire/EMS departments.
Tyrone, which had the highest total millage rate, relied on the County for fire service, and Brooks used the County for both.
He went on to talk about the impact of reassessments, noting that the only way a tax bill would increase was if the assessed value of the property had increased, which was the case for most properties.
The average increase in digest values countywide was 12.55%, and only .5% of that was new growth; 12.09% was due to reassessments of existing property.
What was the impact on property owners? Salvatore showed that property taxes at 6.043 mills would bring in about $22 million. If they did a full rollback to 5.391 mills to nullify the reassessments, they would net around $19.5 million, which was a loss of about $2.3 million, and that loss would continue every year.
The Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 budget Council just adopted was based on no rollback, and he pointed out that not doing the rollback amounted to an extra $2 a month in taxes for each $100,000 of value.
The next two public hearings would be Thursday, August 17, with one at 9 a.m. and another during the regular Council meeting at 6:30 p.m. They could take action to adopt after the final hearing.
The Mayor opened the public hearing.
[Speaker] Suzanne Brown stated that citizens were told there would be no cost to taxpayers when Council approved pay raises for Public Safety employees earlier in the year. But she said every expense affected taxes and believed it was tone deaf for Council not to roll back the millage rate even a little bit.
Many people were living paycheck to paycheck, she pointed out, and any tax relief would help them. She added that annexations would cost the City more over the long run than what would be brought in with tax revenue, and noted that industrial, not residential, growth was needed. Brown called for the City to tighten its belts and roll back the millage rate.
The Mayor closed the public hearing.
[Councilman Frank] Destadio said he was sympathetic to taxpayers, but also had to consider the amount of maintenance needed at City facilities. If this issue was not addressed, things would get worse. They were not raising the millage rate, he pointed out, although he understood that higher assessments meant tax bills would increase.
Still, he continued, he felt citizens wanted them to maintain what they had, and it was hard to balance a budget and accommodate all those needs. He said he was willing to go along with what was proposed.
[Councilman Clint] Holland said he, too, did not like this, but it was the reality of the current times with a 13% inflation rate. But they needed to keep up with maintenance and if they did not, it would cost more to repair in the future.
Perhaps, Holland suggested, they should include maintenance items in a future Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) project list and not have them be all capital projects. He thought they had a stellar budget this year, and they should move forward with this millage rate.
[Councilman Phil] Prebor decried the lack of budgeting for maintenance in past years and hoped to see continued focus on getting the facilities in condition to reflect what Peachtree City deserved.
He referred to the monthly breakdown of taxes, saying it came to about $100 a month for the average home, and he would pay that amount just for the Police. $100 a month to live in Peachtree City was a bargain. He did not want to see the Police and Fire cut, and he wanted them to get their facilities back to prime condition.
[Councilman Mike] King reflected on the recession between 2009 and 2013, saying that was when the City let a lot of things slide into disrepair. Some of that was corrected with the 2017 SPLOST and more would be with the 2023 SPLOST. He did not want to see it go back to where it was. They had managed to reduce the millage rate without compromising services, especially in Police and Fire.
He noted that Peachtree City’s millage rates were lower than two municipalities, even though Peachtree City provided more services. He concluded by saying he agreed with Prebor that it was a bargain.
There being no further business, King moved to adjourn at 9:18 a.m. Holland seconded. Motion carried unanimously.