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Tax rate to remain unchanged
But higher digest requires hearings
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Forsyth County News

As anticipated, the Forsyth County commission has proposed no increase in the property tax rate for 2014.

The board voted 4-0 on Thursday, with Commissioner Todd Levent absent, to advertise a millage rate of 7.656 mills, which has held steady since 2010.

Finance Director David Gruen said though the rate has remained the same, the state requires the county to post a notice of tax increase since the county will receive more tax dollars overall.

The nearly 3.1 percent increase in the tax digest amounts to about $1.15 million more in funding at the same millage rate.

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.

If the county set a rate to receive the same number of tax dollars, minus new construction, the difference would be a .4 percent decrease.

Gruen said that would amount to about $1.90 difference in taxes for a $200,000 home.

Individual property and homeowners may see an increase, decrease or no change, depending on their assessed value.

Since the same millage rate is still considered an increase, three public hearings are required.

The county has set those hearings for 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. July 2, and 5 p.m. July 18. The millage rate is slated for adoption after the third hearing.

The commission set the rate to advertise knowing that the finance committee, which met Monday, had prepared a plan for a balanced budget of about $95 million.

Facing a $4.3 million shortfall in the general fund, the committee made up the difference primarily by moving about $3 million in capital purchases to a separate fund that sets aside money for capital needs.

The committee also cut the budget in half for the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office to prepare for the opening of the jail and courthouse.

The new facilities are scheduled to open at the end of 2014, but the office needs to hire, train and equip deputies for the buildings.

The proposed budget was at $2.4 million Monday, but the committee cut that to $1.2 million by reducing the time prior to opening that deputies would be hired, from six months to four, and lowering the initial staffing for the jail, from 62 additional jobs to 43.

Sheriff’s Maj. Rick Doyle, director of operations, said the agency had already reduced the staffing expense from what was recommended by the project consultants hired to oversee the jail and courthouse development.

The office worked collaboratively with county staff and the finance committee on the necessary staffing for those new facilities, Doyle said.

With the opening of the buildings at least 18 months away, some unknowns remain, he said.

However, cutting the staffing is of concern for the future detention center, which requires more intensive supervision, he said.

“We’ve basically worked with them and said, ‘OK, if that’s what you need to do to balance the budget, we’ll make it work,” he said. “We’re going to do what we have to do with what we have provided to us. It’s tight funding, but we’re going to do what we have to do.”

Doyle said the office remains committed to improving efficiency and “doing more with less.”