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County to set lower millage rate

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

In the wake of a three mill property tax increase instituted by the Clayton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) last year, the citizens will likely see a minor decrease in their property taxes going into the next fiscal year.

On Wednesday, at 6:30 p.m., the board will host a special called meeting to adopt a new millage rate for fiscal year 2011. According to the county's rate proposal, the county's net millage rate for unincorporated residents will be 15.477 mills, just 0.109 mills lower than the fiscal 2010 millage rate of 15.586.

According to BOC Chairman Eldrin Bell, the decrease in tax collection will amount to approximately a $100,000 decrease in county revenue. While the drop amounts to only minimal savings for the average taxpayer, Bell said the decrease is a sign the county is "moving in the right direction."

"It's going to drop a little, which is going to be only about $100,000 or so," Bell said. "It will make a small difference. We increased taxes by three mills last year. I've had the desire since then that, if the economy turned around, or if we were managed better, then, we could give them a percentage of the millage back.

"I think it's [the millage decrease] a sign that we are beginning to see some changes in the economy," he added. "Part of it is management, and I think we need to continue on that spiral ... examining the core responsibilities of the county so we can do better."

One mill represents the amount of taxes paid at $1 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

While the county's maintenance and operation millage remains set at 16.453 mills, this year's rate reduction -- made possible by the money collected from the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) -- is slightly larger than last year's. The rate rollback for fiscal 2010 was 5.017 mills, while this year's rollback is 5.126 mills, according to county records.

Included in the net millage rate for unincorporated residents is 3.9 mills used to fund the operations of the Clayton County Fire Department. Residents living in the cities of Lovejoy and Jonesboro, which utilize Clayton County for fire protection services, will pay the unincorporated rate, while those in other Clayton cities will pay the incorporated rate of 11.577 mills.

The fire department maintenance and operation millage rate remains unchanged from fiscal 2010.

Last year, in an effort to avoid laying off public safety employees, the county raised its maintenance and operation millage rate by three mills, from 13.453 mills in fiscal 2009, to 16.453 mills in fiscal 2010. Bell said the slight decrease in the millage rate being proposed would have no impact on county departments.

"Our departments are fully funded," he said. "If the citizens are having to tighten their belts, then, we are going to tighten ours."

Citizens will have a chance to voice their opinions about the millage rate on Wednesday, during the called meeting, which will take place at the Clayton County Administration Building, located at 112 Smith St., in Jonesboro. For more information, call (770) 477-3208.