The Cobb County tax assessor’s office. JOHNNY CRAWFORD / FOR THE AJC
Photo: Johnny Crawford
Photo: Johnny Crawford

Cobb leader defends tax increase before skeptical crowd

Cobb County Commission Chairman Mike Boyce defended a proposed property tax increase before several dozen mostly skeptical taxpayers at a public hearing Monday.

Boyce cast blame on the previous administration, under former Chairman Tim Lee, for shifting debt service funds to pay for the Braves stadium.

“In my campaign I committed to paying for a parks bond that we voted for in 2008,” Boyce said, referring to his campaign promise to fund $40 million for new parks. “Quality does not come cheaply, but we are not spending extravagantly.”

The county has proposed a millage rate increase from 9.85 to 9.98 mills. That includes money for the county’s general fund, fire services and debt, with the general fund going up and the debt service going down.

The county would have to roll the millage rate back to 6.252 in order to avoid advertising a tax increase.

Lance Lamberton of the Cobb Taxpayers Association spoke in opposition to the millage rate increase. He pointed out that the millage rate increase comes as the county’s tax digest rose to its highest level ever — $33.6 billion for 2017. Also, many people have seen their assessments go up, he said.

“To add a millage rate increase on top of all that is adding insult to injury,” he said. “Quite frankly, I am disgusted with this turn of events.”

He asked what the chairman had done to reduce “wasteful spending,” including paying for expensive consultants, a Cumberland circulator “hardly anyone” rides, and hiking trails.

Another woman expressed similar sentiments.

“Not even one year of us getting rid of Tim Lee, and you’re trying to pull this stunt,” said Loretta Davis.

Boyce justified the increases and even starred in an instructional video explaining how the millage rate is set. Of the county’s $383.6 million 2017 budget, two-thirds go to pay for county staff, while public safety accounts for another large chunk.

He said even with the increase, the county could not afford to hire more police officers, as recommended by a study of the department.

If the new millage rate passes, the owner of a $275,000 home with a homestead exemption could expect to pay about $12 more, or $1,029.

Another public hearing will be held Tuesday. Chairman Mike Boyce will also host a series of town hall meetings to discuss the proposed millage rate.

Commissioners are expected to vote following the third and final public hearing on Tuesday, July 25 at their regular meeting.

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