Thursday, May 01, 2008

Just to clarify

The fundamental problem with Rob Robertson's argument is that it's blaming the Athens-Clarke County Commission for rising property tax rates when, in fact, it's the Clarke County Board of Education that controls half of the millage rate and has kept it rather high the past few years. The commission, rather, has not raised the millage rate in 16 years and is being forced to do so because of rising costs across the economy.

While tigher controls on spending need to be in place in all avenues of government, throwing the commissioners under the base is misplacing one's frustration. If folks are really concerned about their property tax bills they'd cast an eye toward the people who get elected to the school board year in and year out with no opposition.

UPDATE: Apparently a buddy of mine has me in his RSS feed since he promptly, and wisely, pointed out another component to this thing ... and that's the fact that the state has been underfunding the QBE for years now. Even though the funding from that level may shrink, that doesn't mean the student population declines or the need for services falls off. As a result, local boards all over the state have raised millage rates to pick up the slack.

4 Comments:

Anonymous james said...

The Unified Government's portion of the local property tax millage rate is 12.80 mills and that of the Clarke County School District is 20.0 mills. According to the state's Constitution, the latter can go no higher without the passage of a local referendum to that effect.

I certainly think that the Unified Government has a spending problem - but then so does the CCSD (and how). IMHO, some of its financial doings over the years have been questionable in the extreme.

1:34 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

Jmac:

The Mayor and Commission may not have raised the rate in years, but as I'm sure you know the typical approach is to backdoor increases (not just in ACC but most governments) through aggressive assessments so you can say you didn't raise taxes but that a department just reassessed. These continue this year in Athens and Oconee despite a terrible housing market and a slow economy. I don't know the ins and outs of the ACC government the way others do in the blogosphere, but I will tell you that aggressive reassessments have a lot of negative consequences, including people going out and borrowing more on home equity lines, etc. to continue to finance a lifestyle they can't afford. When the music stops and the debt comes due and the house can't cover, it isn't pretty. In Watkinsville we have actually lowered our millage rates most recent years to keep the tax burden the same on homeowners when assessments rise. No promises for this year, but you don't see many other local governments doing that, huh?

2:26 PM  
Blogger Rich said...

Brian,

You can't borrow anything based on a tax assessment. Unwarranted borrowing is supported by careless residential appraisals and can't be blamed on the local governments assessment practices. You also probably wouldn't want to borrow on a tax assessment as most tax assessments come in around10% below market value in order to minimize appeals.

That being said, I do expect to see a bunch of appeals with the new assessments coinciding with the softening housing market and it will be interesting to see how many of them succeed. A softening housing market does not preclude areas of housing appreciation.

2:50 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

Rich:

I understand what you're saying, and agree that you don't borrow off of assessments. But I have heard from local CPAs that during boom times (3-4 years ago) residents were pushing for re-appraisals, etc. based on rising assessments. You and I both know that there are some appraisers who are more liberal than others...

BB

9:17 AM  

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