RIVERDALE — Not many residents showed up Wednesday to voice their opinion about the city’s intent to raise property taxes. In fact only two concerned citizens were present at the Riverdale City Hall public hearing sessions.
“We have 17,000 residents in Riverdale and only two showed,” said Riverdale Mayor Evelyn Wynn-Dixon. “[The public hearings] were well advertised to the public so I’m not sure why more people didn’t come out.”
As for the two who did show up, Dixon said both were in favor of the city’s decision to raise the property tax.
City Manager Iris Jessie said the city has tentatively adopted a millage rate of 9.98 which will increase property taxes by 1.66 percent, for the 2013 fiscal year. She said for a decade the city has kept the same millage rate at 7.50. The proposed millage rate is an increase by 2.48 percent. “After 10 years, [the city council] thought it was fair that we could go up a little bit,” said Jessie in a previous statement.
Property taxes pay for the local law enforcement, fire department, roads and building maintenance, emergency operations and the local leisure activities the city offers to residents.
According to Dixon, the increase in taxes will allow the city to make some major improvements to its appearance, while also adding new equipment — replacing a 30-year-old fire truck, and acquiring two new police patrol cars — as well as enhancing sidewalks and walkways along Highway 85.
“[The increase] is really needed because it will keep the city afloat,” said Dixon. “We’re looking at the future. I really think this is going to be awesome for the people. I’m really excited and I hope people can understand.”
Lata Chinn, who owns the New South Package store in Riverdale, was present at Wednesday’s hearing and was on board for the tax increase. “You know if you want the extra protection and you want the quality of life you have to sacrifice something,” said Chinn. “Give up your cup of coffee and pay the extra money.”
Here’s what the increase would mean:
• Those who own homes valued at $100,000 would have to pay $399.20 in property taxes, an increase of $99.20 per year or $8.26 per month;
• Those with homes valued at $80,000 would have to pay $319.36 in property taxes, an increase of $79.36 per year or $6.61 per month;
• Those with homes valued at $60,000 would have to pay $239.52 in property taxes, an increase of 59.52 per year or $4.96 per month;
• Those with homes valued at $40,000 would have to pay $159.68 in property taxes, an increase of $39.68 per year or $3.30 per month; and
• Those with homes valued at $20,000 would have to pay $79.84 in property taxes, which will be $19.84 per year or $1.65 per month.
Residents who feel their taxes are too high can appeal to the Clayton County Commission to get them lowered, which some are already doing, according to Jessie. “If the [County commissioners] do lower the [property] taxes is makes [the city’s ] available dollars go down,” she said.
Jessie said this could hurt the city’s proposed, $11.7 million general fund budget for 2013, because 70 percent of the budget will be covered by taxes. Thirty-eight percent of those taxes will consist of property taxes, or at current estimates, a little more than $3.1 million.
“The reassessments don’t always come in at the time we are doing the [city’s] budget,” she said. “In fact, they come in after the [budget] and you can take those reassessments and that will decrease the value of all the property in Riverdale.”
Dixon said she understand there are going to be residents who will be dissatisfied with the increase. “I’m single, living by myself and I don’t want to do some things all the time,” said Dixon. “But this time it’s a necessity and something that we can not do without.”
Dixon added one of the highlights of the increase is that — unlike neighboring cities — the city of Riverdale will not have to dip into other savings to cover costs. “That is something that we do not want to do. We want to maintain a balanced budget,” she said. “We need to make sure we have money in our reserves in case of emergencies or inclement weather.”