JONESBORO Property taxes in Clayton County are expected to produce more revenue than previously thought, but it will end up being a wash for county leaders because they will use the extra income to exempt some departments from a hiring freeze.
The county commission voted 3-1 Thursday to approve their $174.7 million budget for fiscal year 2014. Commissioner Gail Hambrick cast the lone dissenting vote and Commissioner Sonna Singleton was out of town.
Chief Financial Officer Ramona Thurman said the final tax digest figures from the Tax Assessor's Office shows the digest's net assessed value is $5.9 million, which is up from $5.8 million in the preliminary data. By keeping the county's base millage rate at 20.953 mills, taxes are expected to produce an extra $1.9 million in revenues.
The net mill rate residents actually pay will be 14.549 mills because of a higher sales tax credit this year.
At the same time, Thurman said the county has decided to waive the planned hiring freeze for those departments whose head is an elected official. That includes the courts and clerks offices, and the offices of district attorney, sheriff, solicitor general and the tax commissioner.
Thurman said it will cost about $1.9 million to fill vacancies in those offices.
Sheriff Victor Hill will also lose 27 deputies to the police department as part of the budget. The deputies had served as school resource officers during the school year but Hill decided earlier this year to end that arrangement.
Thurman said the commission had an agreement with the sheriff's office that mandated the positions could only exist as long as an SRO contract was in affect with the schools. She said Chairman Jeff Turner decided to transfer the deputies and their positions to the police department rather than lay them off.
The school system was paying the county $1 million per year for the SROs but that income will go away now that the contract has been terminated.
The loss of the SRO contract is part of a $5 million loss in revenues the county will have to cover by taking money out of its general fund reserves. The others a $3 million shortfall in the county’s fire fund and a loss of $1 million in reimbursements because the state is not temporarily housing inmates in the county jail long enough to qualify for refunds anymore.