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Tax rates same but bills may go up

By Justin Boron

Although Clayton County and its cities plan to maintain current property tax rates, officials say citizens may still see an increase on their tax bill because of rising property values.

In a broad reassessment this year, 78 percent of the county saw an increase in value between 0 and 10 percent, with the average sale price of homes going up $7,000.

Despite the value increase, which is expected to generate more revenue, the Board of Commissioners plans to keep the past year's millage rate of 7.781. During budget hearings, the commissioners abandoned plans to lower tax rates and instead, devoted the extra revenue to its less than sufficient cash reserve fund.

The tax bill for a $100,000 home would be $233.43 under the current rate.

With a final public hearing for the tax rate scheduled for 8:45 a.m. Tuesday, county officials have said they are concerned that citizens will perceive the reassessed value as a spike in tax rates. In a News Daily legal advertisement, the county states that property taxes will increase by 1.57 percent in the unincorporated parts of the county, and increase one percent within cities.

On the other hand, some municipal residents may luck out on city taxes, city officials say.

Jonesboro City Manager Jon Walker said residents there have a good chance of skirting entirely the town's first year of property taxes.

"If you own your house and live in it in Jonesboro, there's a (good) chance you're not going to pay any taxes," he said.

Thirty-eight percent of the property in Jonesboro is valued at less than $150,000, Walker said, making it entirely exempt from city property taxes.

Because of the homestead exemption passed by referendum in November, Mayor Chuck Hall also said the majority of homeowners will not be paying taxes.

In Morrow, City Manager John Lampl said the revenue generated is only about $2,500 less than last year for $10.3 million budget, which is up from $9.9 million last year. He said the budget increase came through added local option sales tax money. Tax bills in Morrow will likely come out close to what they did last year, Lampl said.

Riverdale adopted a budget planning for no millage change. Increase in property values there would mean a heftier tax bill.

Lovejoy does not have a property tax.