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Morrow proposes 1-mill property tax increase

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

The City of Morrow has announced its intention to increase its millage rate from 5 mills to 6 mills.

According to city officials, the proposed increase will make up for losses in commercial revenue, as well as pay for the recent addition of new, full-time staff members.

On Aug. 25 at 7:30 p.m., and on Sept. 8 at 11 a.m., and 6:45 p.m., the city will host public hearings at the Morrow Municipal Complex to give citizens a chance to voice their concerns about the proposed increase.

Morrow City Manager Jeff Eady said the additional tax revenue will support the salaries of a handful of new positions, including an economic development director, a full-time city clerk, and a full-time human resources manager.

"We've had a lot of growth in the city in the last few years, and we needed to adjust accordingly, instead of overloading our current staff," Eady said. "About four months ago, the mayor and council decided to create a full-time economic developer position and [former City Manager] John Lampl decided to take that position. We're hiring a full-time city clerk and a full-time human resources director, so really, this is personnel driven.

"Up to this point, the hiring of new hires and the human resources management of the employees themselves ... has been done by City Hall and the department heads," he continued. "It [the additional staff positions] gives us, at the city, the ability to more-efficiently manage our resources."

Eady said the salary of the city clerk and the human resources manager will be between $45,000 and $65,000, based on qualifications, and the economic development director's salary is about $110,000.

If adopted, the increase in the millage rate will result in a 16.19 percent increase in property-tax collections, according to Morrow Finance Officer Dan Defnall. He said declining commercial revenues and Local Options Sales Tax (LOST) collections have also contributed to the need to raise the millage rate.

"I think it's just the economy," Defnall said. "The majority of our [tax] digest is commercial. There has been a decline in business and a loss of some business. The decline in the LOST [collections] is a large part. Those are down statewide."

Defnall said that if adopted, Morrow property owners would see the increase on their October 2009 tax bill. If the city adopts the 1-mill increase, the city's 2010 budget will be $10.4 million, compared to $10.2 million in 2009.

According to Defnall, the city has a $170,000 homestead exemption. He said the majority of Morrow residents would not see a significant difference in their tax bills.

"We have such a huge commercial and retail base within our city limits," he said. "We have a homestead exemption of $170,000 on residential homes, so the majority of the impact is going to be on commercial [property]. There are very few homes in Morrow that are worth more than $170,000."

According to Eady, the impact on the city will be slight. "On the commercial business, it's not going to be much of an impact," he said. "Most of our homeowners won't be affected at all. Most of them, who are affected, won't be affected by more than $40 a year."