City of Monroe to advertise millage rate increase and public hearings for 2019

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The Monroe City Council agreed to advertise a millage rate increase in the lead up to the vote on the 2019 millage rate at the Aug. 13 City Council meeting. If the city adopted the rollback rate of 7.148, which would have avoided having to advertise a tax increase, the city would be going in the hole by $53,496 of the 2019 budget which, based on a 96% collection rate, would mean about $27,794 less.

“We will advertise a maximum of 7.802 mills, an increase of 0.654 mills or 9.15%.  If we left it the same we would still have to advertise as a tax increase even though technically we would still receive slightly less tax revenue,” said Logan Propes, city administrator for the City of Monroe.
At a meeting last week where the possibility of raising the rate was discussed, Propes explained to council members that the city has lost two substantial revenue bases, the largest one being with the sale of Clearview Regional Medical Center to Piedmont Healthcare. With Piedmont being a non-profit, there is no tax revenue to the city as opposed to the situation when the hospital was Clearview. Propes said with 100% being $47,200,502, the loss of tax revenue from Piedmont to the City at the current millage rate is $137,391.22.

“It has gone from a poor-performing hospital to one where it’s actually bringing patients from outside,” Monroe Mayor John Howard noted, adding, “But that’s a whopping hit to take.”

“An additional $10,000 decrease is also expected in TAVT, which replaced Motor Vehicle Ad Valorem in 2013 (not on tax digest). So we expect around $156,571.49 in revenue to have disappeared,” Propes said. The additional losses are about $5,827.57 on motor vehicle Ad Valorem, about $304.01 on timber and about $3,048.69 on utility. “Of course, there was a little bit of additional commercial real estate value added that offset the hospital loss by about $40,000 but that is already factored into the digest growth of only 0.88% for 2019.”

Propes said a millage rate of 7.802 mills will bring in $247,083 at 100%, although a more realistic rate of 96% collection would bring in $237,200 in additional revenue.

“So essentially that would give about $90,000-$100,000 over the losses shown above. This was also the rate levied in 2016,” Propes said. “Of course, by August 13th Council can decide to levy this rate or anything below it.”

The City does have to advertise the highest rate that it would possibly agree to adopt and hold three public hearings in the leadup up to the Aug. 13 vote. Propes said those dates and times would be given as soon as they are decided on.

The annual increase over the rollback rate for a $100,000 fair-market value home in the city is approximately $26.  The annual increase over the rollback rate for a non-homestead exempt $150,000 fair-market value home in the city is approximately $39.

“These are the approximate average home values in the city of Monroe according to the County Property Appraiser,” Propes said. On a non-homestead exempt $200,000 fair market home in the city, it would be a $52.32 increase and on a $250,000 home it would be $65.40.

During discussions on whether or not to raise the millage rate, city council members discussed the need to add more police officers and noted that if no additional revenue came in they also would not be able to do any of the improvements to parks. Councilman Nathan Little balked at any funding from increased utility revenue from a boom in residential housing being used to supplement the budget.

“If we accumulate (revenue in utilities) we need to lower rates,” Little said, noting that other cities that don’t have the benefit of utility revenue make do without it. Howard agreed that day-to-day operations should be off of taxes. It was also noted that the millage rate had not been raised in many years with the city usually adopting the rollback rate to bring in taxes at the same rate that would keep revenues the same as the previous year. This also did not allow for anything to be added to reserves.

The Town Green would be funded off of revenue from the Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) revenue, and possibly some fundraising, Propes said.

“With more people coming to town, we’re seeing an increase in sales tax revenue,” Howard said.

In the end, it was decided to advertise the higher rate that would bring in some additional revenue, even if a lower rate may be considered when it came time to vote.

“We have a responsibility to act responsibly and that doesn’t mean we always roll something back,” Councilman David Dickinson said when discussing which rate to consider, adding he didn’t think it was responsible to always operate on a razor-thin edge. “Doing so would be a disservice to the community. What people expect is their elected officials to act responsibly and give rational reasons for what we do and not just to do something because it is politically popular.”

The public hearings will be advertised as soon as the dates are available.

 

 

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