Clayton property owners to pay for airport jet fuel sales tax loss

The public notice, required by state law, about Clayton County’s proposed millage increase as it appeared on page A3 of the Wednesday, July 3 print edition of Clayton News.

JONESBORO — Property owners in Clayton County can expect higher property taxes, thanks to the Federal Aviation Administration taking away the county’s airport jet fuel sales tax. However, your bill will vary according to your tax district or city, your home’s assessed value and any exemptions you claim.

The 5.13 percent county maintenance and operations increase and 4.14 percent increase for unincorporated areas was all but inevitable as county and state leaders scrambled for stop-gap grants to keep the schools funded.

The Board of Education is considering a 3.66 percent increase on top of that.

Clayton County Commission Chairman Jeff Turner repeatedly told citizens during the first millage rate hearing July 16 that this was never the Board of Commissioners’ idea.

“What triggered the millage increase was the loss of the jet fuel tax, not anything on this board’s part where we asked or requested any kind of millage increase,” Turner said. “There’s a formula that the state goes by, and that formula, because we lost sales tax revenue, is what triggered that percentage.”

The county expects to collect an additional 6.65 percent overall in property taxes, or about $9 million, over last year, according to Chief Financial Officer Ramona Bivins.

The school district sets its own millage rate separately from the county.

Proposed net millage rates include:

♦ Incorporated Clayton County: 15.858 mills

♦ Unincorporated Clayton County: 20.858 mills (the additional 5 mills is for county fire protection)

♦ School District: 20 mills

The average tax bill for a home in Clayton County is $776.99, which is around the middle of the metro Atlanta range. But the average value of one mill (based on the average home value of $149,550 and the 40 percent assessed value of $49,820) generates the least amount of taxes metro-wide, compared to Cobb, DeKalb, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett and Henry counties, where property values are significantly higher.

Property values are going up in Clayton County. “We’re still not back to the pre-recession values, but we’re getting close,” Bivins said. However, “One mill in Clayton County is not equal to one mill in other counties because of the property values.”

Bivins said the county expects to collect an estimated $115.2 million in property taxes.

Each year, the county passes its annual budget based on a best-guess preliminary assessment. Tax notices were mailed on April 26, giving property owners until June 10 to appeal their assessments. The final assessments were “locked down” on June 19. Bivins said that “lockdown digest” is what the county uses to calculate its sales tax credit and net millage rate.

On July 17, the day after the BOC millage rate hearing, the Board of Education announced it will keep its current 20-mill rate.

“Due to an increase in the county’s tax assessment,” CCBOE said in a press release, “at the current millage rate, this will result in an increase of 3.66 percent in the 2019 property taxes it will levy this year.”

The Board of Education also adopted a budget that “requires a millage rate higher than the rollback millage rate.” In other words, it says, the current school millage rate will not generate enough revenue to cover the school system budget in 2019.

The BOC will vote on the county’s proposed millage rate during its regular Aug. 6 meeting, immediately after the final public hearing.

Rob Leatherwood complained that the public notice had only appeared in the print edition of the Clayton News and that most people were informed by word of mouth. The Clayton News and the Georgia Press Association also publish legal notices online.

“I mean, we had put up signs a month in advance about back-to-school parties, but when we’re impacting people’s pockets and money, we’re not doing as effective of a job as we need to do,” Leatherwood said.

Future millage rate hearings are as follows:

Monday, July 29, 11 a.m. ♦ Board of Education, 1058 Fifth Ave., Jonesboro

Monday, July 29, 6 p.m. ♦ Board of Education, 1058 Fifth Ave., Jonesboro

Monday, Aug. 5, 5:30 p.m. ♦ Board of Education, 1058 Fifth Ave., Jonesboro

Monday, Aug. 5, 6 p.m. ♦ Board of Education vote on school millage rate

Tuesday, Aug. 6, 11 a.m. ♦ Board of Commissioners, 112 Smith St., Jonesboro

Tuesday, Aug. 6, 6 p.m. ♦ Board of Commissioners, 112 Smith St., Jonesboro

Tuesday, Aug. 6, 6:30 p.m. — Board of Commissioners vote on county millage rate

Watch the July 16 millage rate public hearing at the Board of Commissioners’ website: https://bit.ly/2ShRUDy.

Look up your property’s assessed value at the Clayton County Tax Assessor’s website: https://bit.ly/2P2IdpN.

Estimate your property tax bill: https://bit.ly/2JLIxZ3.

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