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Jonesboro postpones millage rate vote

Mayor: There was a public advertising issue

The Jonesboro City Council will vote on re-establishing its millage rate at some point, but the day when that will occur was not immediately known Monday, after the council unanimously voted to postpone a vote scheduled to take place this week.

Mayor Luther Maddox said the public hearings that were held last month and earlier this month, as well as Monday’s scheduled vote, were not properly advertised. That will force the city to start the process of adopting a millage rate over again. Under state law, the city is required to advertise the hearings and vote, following certain parameters, in Clayton County’s legal organ, the Clayton News Daily.

Maddox said, essentially, the city needs a mulligan and it has to sort out its advertising issues before it begins the millage rate approval process again. No date was announced for when new public hearings, or a vote, will take place.

“We’ve got to re-advertise the public hearings, and re-have the hearings before we can adopt our millage rate,” Maddox said. “It was a comedy of errors. The [Clayton] News Daily is involved, and we’re involved, and we’re just going to sort it all out.”

The city council’s unanimous decision to postpone the millage rate vote is the latest twist in a battle between proponents of re-instituting the town’s property tax at a rate of 2.5 mills, and opponents who want the tax rate to stay at zero mills. The city set its millage rate at zero several years ago, and has not raised it since then.

Jonesboro was originally scheduled to hold public hearings on the proposed increase on Aug. 18, Aug. 25, and Sept. 6. But, town officials announced on Aug. 22 that the date for the second hearing (Aug. 25) was being moved to the afternoon of Sept. 6. That meant two hearings would be held on Sept. 6, one in the afternoon, and another in the evening.

The decision Monday to postpone the millage rate vote came after one of the tax increase’s opponents, Tanama Tanning Salon Owner John Crane, threatened to file a complaint with the town’s ethics board if the council voted for the tax without properly advertising the hearings and the vote.

“The state law requires it [advertisement of the hearings and vote] be a minimum of 30 square inches, [and] the posting in the [news] paper was only 9 square inches, so ... we’ve got a failing on state law there,” Crane told councilmembers.

Crane later added: “Ya’ll can’t proceed with this, without violating state law. And, to proceed with this would be a willful violation of state law, your oath of office and the city charter.” He also told the council they could avoid his going to the ethics board if they postponed the vote, and re-advertised it, or if they voted to keep the millage rate at zero.

After Crane’s comments, the city council met in executive session with City Attorney Steve Fincher, and immediately came out and took the vote to postpone the millage rate issue.

City Councilmember Pat Sebo said it is “unfortunate” that there is an issue concerning the way the public hearings and the city council vote were advertised. She added that the council wants to make sure it follows the law concerning advertising public hearings on tax increases.

“Members of the city council were not aware of the fact that there were requirements, in regards to size [before Monday evening],” she said. “We certainly want it to be correct. We certainly want to legally make sure that we’re doing our due diligence in reporting what we should to the public. We need the public’s input.”