Catoosa County residents could see 15% property tax hike

Catoosa County residents could see 15% property tax hike

July 25th, 2013 by Tim Omarzu in Local Regional News

Catoosa Commissioner Jim Cutler

Catoosa County residents may get tag-teamed on property taxes, since both the schools and county government are weighing what could be a combined 15 percent tax increase.

In the worst-case scenario for taxpayers, the owner of a $100,000 home could see a $131 increase when the tax bill arrives in October.

That's if the county commission approves a 1.5-mill increase to offset a $2.1 million budget deficit. Or, commissioners could choose a smaller tax increase -- or none at all.

"I don't think any of the commissioners would be in favor of something that drastic," Commissioner Jim Cutler said of the 1.5 mill increase, which would increase taxes by $57 annually for someone living in a $100,000 home that they own.

County Chief Financial Officer Carl Henson outlined lesser tax increases of three-quarters of a mill and one mill at public budget hearings held Wednesday morning and evening at the county administration building.

"We're just reviewing all options," Cutler said. "We haven't really decided."

Commissioners will vote on the proposed tax increase on Wednesday morning. Catoosa County hasn't raised the property tax millage since 2006.

Schools eye hike

Meanwhile, the Catoosa County Schools board is on the verge of approving a 1.95-mill increase, or an additional $74 annually for the owner of a $100,000 home. That would bring the total millage rate to 18.713 -- still shy of the 20-mill maximum allowed for Georgia schools.

School officials say the tax hike is necessary because the district has lost $48.8 million in state funding since 2003 and also has to spend more on health insurance and employees' retirement.

The school board held two public hearings Tuesday on the proposed millage increase and will take a final vote at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the district's central office.

If the tax increases are approved, they'll be included in bills that go out on Oct. 20 and are due back by Dec. 20, county Tax Commissioner Sandra Self said.

Self said residents sometimes mistakenly think that she raises taxes. The school board and county commission will make those decisions.

"I just get to send the bill," Self said.

Staff Writer Rachel Sauls contributed to this report.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6651.