published Saturday, October 15th, 2011

Whitfield County holds its millage rate steady

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DALTON, Ga. — Whitfield County residents will not see an increase in property taxes this year, but county commissioners warned that likely will not be the case next year.

During a specially called meeting Friday, commissioners voted 3-1 in favor of leaving the net millage rate at 5.061 on property tax notices sent later this month.

“There is likely to be some change in the millage rate next year,” Chairman Mike Babb said after the meeting. “There are mixed opinions on whether it is better to hold it off as long as we can or to do it a little at a time.”

Commissioner Gordon Morehouse voted against the resolution. Morehouse said he thinks it would have been better to raise the millage rate a small amount this year rather than waiting and putting in a large increase next year.

The rate last was raised in 2001 and has remained steady or decreased slightly since then.

But the county’s tax coffers have dropped since the economic downtown, prompting budget cuts. The county has used reserve funds to make up deficits.

Commissioners no longer can cut their way out of budget shortfalls, Babb warned commissioners at their last meeting.

Not only has the county used available reserves, it may lose revenue from several sources next year.

Whitfield County and Dalton government will renegotiate a 1 percent sales tax split next year, with Dalton Mayor David Pennington vowing to increase the city’s share of the annual revenue.

County residents will vote on a separate 1 percent sales tax increase in November, but that increase faces strong opposition, making its passage questionable.

Lastly, commissioners voted earlier this week to change the freeport tax exemption from 20 percent to 100 percent, beginning next year. That will cost the county about $1.6 million in revenue next year.

Freeport taxes are assessed on unsold inventories held by county businesses.

The county school system also will be affected by the change in freeport tax, losing up to about $1.8 million in revenue.

Commissioners say the change in the freeport tax was needed to attract more businesses to the area, but before that can happen, funds will need to come from another source.

“It will take time for us to see more investments,” Morehouse said.

about Mariann Martin...

Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...

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