Photo by Curt Yeomans
County Finance Director Angela Jackson (left) chats with Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell Tuesday following a meeting of the Commission. Commissioners approved a property tax reduction of 0.901 mills during the meeting.
JONESBORO — Residents who were outraged last year when their property taxes went up by 5 mills will see those taxes take a downward turn this year.
The Clayton County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a 0.901-mill reduction in the county’s property taxes Tuesday. The move comes a year after county leaders sparked controversy by voting to raise taxes by 34 percent.
This year’s decrease did not come without its own controversy, though.
While the approved decrease is higher than the 0.895-mill decrease that county officials previously planned to recommend, it is lower than the 1-mill decrease Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell had wanted. He argued with county Finance Director Angela Jackson during a pre-meeting Tuesday about increasing the decrease.
“The cost of this [going from a 0.901-mill tax decrease to a 1-mill decrease] would be about $550,000, so you would need to find that in your budget, to reduce your budget,” said Jackson.
Bell responded, “That’s not true. Think about that, what you just said. The cost of that would now be $550,000, but when it was 0.895 mills, it was $420,000. Now it’s lower.”
The 0.901-mill property tax decrease ultimately was approved, in part, because deadlines to get it done made the debate over the tax rate’s size a moot point.
Jackson and Interim County Attorney Jack Hancock said changing the size of the tax decrease involves advertising the change once a week for two weeks in the Clayton News Daily and calling a special called meeting of the Commission to get the property approved before the Aug. 1 deadline the state has set for counties to submit their county digests.
“If you have to advertise it, the county would be out of compliance” with state law, Jackson said.
Commissioners ultimately decided the risk involved in postponing a decision on the millage was not worth taking the chance of violating state law.
“I don’t think we can afford holding it back any longer,” said Commissioner Michael Edmondson.