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Forsyth County commission discusses possible tax hike

FORSYTH COUNTY — Talk of a possible tax increase surfaced Tuesday, when Forsyth commissioners heard an update on the preliminary 2016 budget from David Gruen, county’s chief financial officer.

During a work session, Gruen proposed that the millage rate for general obligation bonds increase from .869 mills to 1.419 mills, which would raise the overall millage rate from 7.656 mills to 8.206 mills.

The maintenance and operations and fire district millage rates likely would stay unchanged, at 4.812 mills and 1.975 mills, respectively.

The millage rate is part of a formula used to calculate property taxes, where one mill equals $1 for every $1,000 in assessed property value.

The possible rate hike appears to be in a response to the recent transportation bond.

“Back in November, the voters approved borrowing up to $200 million in bonds, which was supported as what we call general obligation bonds … supported by property taxes,” Gruen explained. “We’ve drawn [in April] the first $100 million of that. We know with the good rates we got on that, we’ll look at 20 years of debt service.”

In his presentation, Gruen said the millage rate is lower than was initially projected.

“With that we have a proposed millage rate to cover those costs, we’re recommending at this point is less than half of the rates we were showing for $200 million,” he said.

“We tried to set that rate in such a way that we could sustain that rate without it going up and down particularly to the next $100 million.”

The first two of three public hearings on the millage rate have been scheduled for at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. July 2. On July 16, the commission will hold a third public hearing at 6 p.m. and then likely adopt the millage rate later that same night. A tax digest is due to the Georgia Department of Revenue on Aug. 1.

Also Tuesday, the commission discussed other parts of 2016’s budget. Expenditures from the general fund for unchanged or “same service” items are expected to rise nearly 6 percent, from about $103.4 million in 2015 to about $109.4 million in 2016.

During that same span, however, general fund revenue is projected to increase from about $103.4 million in 2015 to about $110.5 million for 2016, which would mean the county could have a surplus of more than $1 million.

“We come to a line in the description we’ve never really used in my five years here, we actually have available funds after these two,” Gruen said.

He added that the extra money could go toward new budget items.

At their next work session, set for June 23, commissioners will discuss the preliminary budget. It likely will be November before a public hearing or vote on the spending plan occur.