Less than a handful of Jonesboro residents and business owners addressed the city council Monday, during a public hearing on plans to re-institute the millage rate. But there was a repeated mantra as people told council members: “Tighten your belts!”
The city is in the midst of holding public hearings, to give residents a chance to voice their opinions about plans to establish a 2.5-mill property tax. Proponents of the tax have argued it is needed to balance the city’s budget, while opponents have argued it will drive businesses away.
Jonesboro has a $60,000 homestead exemption, which means many homeowners will not have to pay the tax, while business owners (who do not have that exemption) will make up the majority of people paying the city tax.
In arguing against the tax, several residents have called for city leaders to make deeper cuts to expenditures, to prevent taxes from being necessary.
“I don’t envy your job, because I know you need the money, but we’re all having to cut back, and I think the City of Jonesboro should start finding a way to cut back [as well],” elderly, part-time resident, Claudia Turner, told council members.
Monday’s hearing marked the first meeting in a new set of three public hearings on the proposed millage rate. Two more hearings are scheduled for Oct. 3, one at 2 p.m., and another at 6 p.m., in the City Council chambers at the Jonesboro Police Department, at 170 South Main Street.
This is the second set of public hearings Jonesboro has held this year. A previous set of three hearings on the millage rate were held in late August, and earlier this month, but the Jonesboro City Council decided to restart the process after questions were raised about the way those original hearings were publicly advertised.
Council members are expected to vote, on Oct. 3, on whether to approve the proposed tax rate.
It has been several years since Jonesboro had a city property tax, and one of the complaints about Jonesboro’s plans for re-instituting its millage rate is that it comes on the heels of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners’ decision, in July, to raise the county’s millage rate by 5 mills.
Turner told the city council that she has already had to sell valuables to pay taxes in past years, and that re-instituting a city tax, on top of the increase in the county’s property tax, would be too much for her to afford.
“I’m not going to be able to pay my taxes this year,” Turner said. “I sold my wedding ring, and my engagement ring, to pay last year’s [property taxes], and this year, it’s increasing.”
Former city councilman, Rick Yonce, who is running for a chance to return to the governing body this year, in municipal elections, echoed Turner’s call for spending cuts.
Mayor Luther Maddox told Turner after the hearing, however, that spending cuts will not be enough to balance the city’s budget. “We have been cutting for the last three, or four years, Mrs. Turner,” Maddox said.