Friday, July 10, 2009

Myth: City Property Taxes are Rising Fast. Fact: City Property Tax Revenues are only up $400k since 2003.

In preparation for a meeting I had yesterday, I reviewed some interesting tax data. While it is fresh on my mind and legal pad, I though I'd share it with you to help dispel a popular myth that city property taxes seem to be rising. Other property taxes which make up your property tax bill are rising, but not the city's portion.

How is the tax rate figured?

The tax rate, or millage, is set annually. A tax rate of one mill represents a tax liability of one dollar per $1,000 of assessed value. Example:The assessed value-40 percent of the fair market value-of a house that is worth $100,000 is $40,000. In a county where the millage rate is 25 mills the property tax on that house would be $1,000; $25 for every $1,000 of assessed value or $25 multiplied by 40 is $1,000.

If you live in the City of Albany, your property tax bill has 4 components which total 39.746 mills. Those 39.746 mills are collected for (1) the Dougherty County School System (2) Dougherty County (3) the City of Albany and (4) the State of Georgia. The State actually collects a very small amount to cover administrative costs -- 00.25 mills. The City of Albany receives the next smallest share of your property taxes at 9.157 mills. However, if you live within the city limits of Albany, you are still taxed by the Dougherty County School System at 18.445 mills and by Dougherty County at 11.894 mills.

According to the FY2010 budget passed by the City Commission (which I personally voted against for a variety of reasons I can explain later), the City will fund its budget with $14,672,008 in property taxes. The rest of the $102 million budget is funded from other sources including federal and state grants, sales taxes, fees, and fines.

What is interesting, is that the FY2003 budget which was passed under former city manager Janice Jackson included property tax revenues for the city of $14,283,023. That means that since 2003 property tax revenue for the city has only risen about $400k to its present FY2010 budget level of $14,672,008.

That's even more interesting when you consider that the police department budget from FY2003 was about $11 million, and now it is at $16 million for FY2010. Also, the fire department budget went from about $8 million in FY2003 to $11.9 million in FY2010. What this means is that City staff has found ways to increase funding to essential services without increasing property taxes.

I know some of you are asking how city property tax revenues could have only risen $400k since FY2003. I asked the same question of our finance director. The answer is that the City Commission has been doing city millage rate rollbacks for the last 5 years with very little fanfare. Here are the city millage rates from 2004-2008.

2004 -- 10.8
2005 -- 10.792
2006 -- 10.777
2007 -- 9.159
2008 -- 9.157

The city commission voted for a budget that assumes the millage rate will stay at 9.157 in 2009.

Remember, the total millage rate you pay if you live in the city limits of Albany is now 39.746. Thus, the city's portion of your property tax bill accounts for about 23% of your total property tax bill. Almost 30% of your property tax bill goes to the county. A whopping 46% of your tax bill goes to the school system. The state gets the remaining 1%.

Let me make it clear that I do think taxes for city residents are too high. A 2006 report from the governor's office stated that Albany residents suffered the highest "total" millage rate in the state, but I think you can see from the above data that the city does not receive the bulk of that "total" millage rate. I think the city's millage rate can be lower with certain belt tightening, and I'll continue to advocate for that. However, I am pleased to see that city staff has been able to keep a lid on the city millage rate since at least 2003.

1 comment:

Mary said...

Good info and reminder. Thanks!