- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—When the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners approved the county’s $40.2 million 2015 budget last year, they warned it would require a 1-mill tax increase.

Now, it’s time for them to make that official. Commissioners are advertising a 2015 property tax rate of 7.061 mills, up 1 mill from 2014.

If they adopt that property tax rate, the tax on a home with a fair market value of $150,000 would increase by $40.64. The tax on a property with a fair market value of $150,000 that does not have a homestead exemption would increase $60.96.

The tax increase is projected to bring in an additional $2.2 million.

That tax rate is only for the county’s maintenance and operations tax. It does not include the county fire district, which is basically everything outside the city of Dalton, where the tax rate is 2 mills.

Board of Commissioners Chairman Mike Babb says commissioners haven’t decided whether they will need to increase the tax rate in the fire district.

“It will depend upon the fire department’s needs,” he said.

But Babb said commissioners would definitely have had to increase the fire district tax rate if voters had not approved the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) in March, part of which will buy new fire trucks for the fire department.

“That SPLOST reduces the chances we’ll need a tax increase and cuts the size of that tax increase,” he said. “Without it, we would have to pay for those fire engines through the property tax and it would have taken us longer to buy them.”

Officials say if there is an increase in the fire district tax rate it will be for additional personnel. Currently, only five of the county’s 10 fire stations have two firefighters on duty around the clock. The rest have only one.

According to data provided by commissioners, the proposed 1-mill tax increase would move the county from the 20th lowest property tax rate among Georgia counties to the 34th lowest. That includes only the county government tax rate and not the school system tax, which is separate.

“Some people may disagree, but we see ourselves in competition with the other 158 counties in the state,” Babb said. “Yes, we do need to keep taxes low, but at the same time we have to deliver the quality of life and roads and public safety and other services that people expect.”

Commissioners will hold public hearings on the proposed tax rate on Monday at noon and on Monday, Aug. 10, at noon. They will hold a final public hearing and vote to set the property tax rate at their regular meeting on Monday, Aug. 10, at 6 p.m. All three meetings will be in Administrative Building No. 2, 214 W. King St

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(c)2015 The Daily Citizen (Dalton, Ga.)

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