Catoosa County Board of Commissioners refused to raise the county property tax millage rate Thursday but the board will now consider imposing a public service fee.
After three public hearings in which numerous taxpayers complained about a proposed tax increase, commissioners voted unanimously July 28 not to raise taxes.
Catoosa County resident Lamar Dietz compared the tax increase to setting a live frog in cool water to boil.
Degree by degree putting the heat to him pretty soon that frog is boiled, he said. You get to where you tax us out of existence.
Fort Oglethorpe resident Kenneth Dodd said increases are hurting people on fixed incomes.
Ive heard comments that if taxes keep going up I am going to have to move, he said.
According to Carl Henson, Catoosa County chief financial officer, the county portion of the millage rate will now be 3.133, generating $4,336,857.
Commissioners had proposed as much as a one-mill tax increase that would have generated approximately $1.3 million.
Henson said the lack of a property tax increase leaves a $1.184 million shortfall in the current 2005-06 budget of $19,648,875, which the board unanimously approved Thursday.
To make up for the shortfall money will be borrowed from the county's contingency or "rainy day" fund.
Commissioners cut the budget by $185,915 during recent meetings.
Commissioner Ken Marks proposed the budget deficit be funded by a public safety fee.
The fee will be debated through meetings and public hearings over the coming weeks. No dates are yet set.
Marks provided commissioners with an example of a $60 service fee per dwelling, mobile home and apartment. Commercial fees could be $200 per business and $2,000 for industries. The example scenario would generate $1.3 million in revenues from unincorporated Catoosa County.
Marks said he wants the county to work with Ringgold and Fort Oglethorpe to also collect the fee in the cities, which would lower the individual fees.
I am banking heavily on the two cities coming in, he said.
He also stressed that most of the fees should come from apartment dwellers and commercial and industrial sources rather than individual property owners.
The intent of the alternative is not for residents to pick up the brunt of it, he said.
Catoosa County Chairman Bill Clark said he is pleased there was no increase in the property tax.
We now have to look at the fee, but keep it as low as possible, he said.
Catoosa County Tax Commissioner Sandra Self said if commissioners approve a fee her office can place it on this years tax bills for collection.
It would take quite a lot of work and will have to be done by hand, she told commissioners.
Despite commissioners not increasing the millage rate, many property owners will still see an increase in individual tax bills due to property value reassessments. If a service fee is added it will also be an addition to property tax bills.
Commissioner Bobby Winters said he is hesitant about the proposed fee but commissioners should discuss the proposal in-depth.
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