By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Millage rate likely to rise
Tax hike would cover shortfall in 2011 budget
Placeholder Image
Forsyth County News
Other action

Also Tuesday, the Forsyth County commission:

• Approved an agreement with Edge City Properties, which proposed to clean up The Overlook at James Creek, a subdivision partially built on a former landfill.

The property has accrued nearly $3 million in soil and sedimentation fines. Under the resolution, 75 percent of those fees will be waived.

A $1 credit for each $1 spent on remediating the property will go toward paying the fines.

• Appointed Mitch McKinney and reappointed Tim Perry and Rusty Ricketson to the county's board of ethics.
Commissioner Brian Tam, who has a pending ethics complaint against him, recused himself from the votes, which were all 4-0 in favor.

• Refunded a duplicate sewer pump station phase-out fee to Piedmont Investments based on a board precedent.
Note: All votes were 5-0 unless otherwise noted.

-- Alyssa LaRenzie
Forsyth County commissioners appear poised to raise the millage rate to cover a $13.3 million shortfall in the 2011 budget.

The commission voted 3-1 on Tuesday, with one member absent, to advertise the proposed tax hike.

“This is one of those years where you’re going to see a millage rate increase,” Chairman Charles Laughinghouse said. “I don’t see any way around it.”

Though they haven’t made any final decisions, the commission is proposing an increase of 1.48 mills, for a total of 8.351 mills.

Commissioners do not, however, anticipate actually increasing the rate by that much, since the county is working to cut expenditures to reduce the shortfall in the estimated $93.6 million budget.

Three hearings, beginning with two on July 15, will give the public an opportunity to comment on the possible property tax increase, as well as the county’s finances.

A mill is equal to $1 for each $1,000 in assessed property value. Assessed value is 40 percent of actual market value.

The county has maintained a property tax rate of 3.834 mills since 2006. Including fire and bonds millage, the county’s current total is 6.871 mills.

The increase to 8.351 mills would equate to a $118.40 increase on a $200,000 home, according to county figures.

Commissioner Jim Harrell voted against the proposed increase, saying: “I was the lone ranger last year and I may be again this year.”

Commissioner Brian Tam left the meeting during the budget discussion and did not vote.

The rate has been set at the maximum needed since the commissioners can lower the amount advertised, but not increase it.

“It’s much easier to go down than to go up,” Laughinghouse said. “I don’t see us still having that $13.3 million deficit. We’re going to whittle it down.”

Before the vote, several options to slash spending were floated during the budget discussions. They ranged from delaying or reducing recreational services to eliminating vacant or unneeded positions.

Commissioner Patrick Bell and Laughinghouse agreed that county employees shouldn’t have to bare all of the budget brunt this year.

“Last year, a majority of the board was willing to throw the burden on the employees,” Laughinghouse said. “I’d like to reinstate at least a portion [of benefits].”

Bell said opening the new south Forsyth senior center and Fowler Park next year are less important than retaining staff and reinstating at least some of their benefits, such as paid holidays.

“If we’re going to open those and spend $1 million, I’ll have a hard time looking at any employee,” he said. “What we’re basically saying [then] is, ‘Staff, you’re going to fund these new items for us.’”

Some employees are already facing a bleak outlook in meeting the 2010 budget.

Sheriff Ted Paxton said at a previous county budget meeting that he would need to lay off about a third of his deputies to meet his 2010 budget.

Commissioners discussed ways to avoid that Tuesday, weighing whether it would be feasible to draw from the nearly $300,000 in the jail fund or the some $686,000 in the drug seizure fund.

It’s likely that the sheriff’s shortfall will have to be made up from reserves, a fund that has been “rapidly dwindling,” Laughinghouse said.

The unaudited figures show that the county went about $1.3 million over budget for 2009, County Manager Doug Derrer said.

The county strives to keep about 25 percent of its current year budget in reserves, he said, which would equate to about $19 million.

However, the fund currently holds only about $10.8 million. Reserves are used to help determine the county’s bond rating or ability to issue bonds.

In comparison, the county’s financial state is still better than many neighboring local governments.

“Considering the state of the economy ... this county has done an excellent job,” Derrer said. “Others are still furloughing.”