The millage rate for Forsyth County will likely remain the same in 2023.
At a work session on Tuesday, June 21, Forsyth County Commissioners voted to approve a tentative county millage rate of 7.896 mills – 4.791 mills for county maintenance and operations, 2.175 mills for the fire rate and .930 mills for the bond rate – for 2023, the same rate approved in 2022.
“The recommended millage rates for 2022 are unchanged from the 2021 year,” said Forsyth County Chief Financial Officer Marcus Turk. “To determine the recommendation for the 2022 millage rate, the finance committee reviewed projected revenues and expenditures.”
The county’s millage rate is combined with the school system’s millage rate of 18.718 mills – made up of school maintenance and operations rate of 17.3 and school bond rate of 1.418 – means the total millage rate will is projected to be 26.614 mills, down from a total of 27.617 mills in 2021 and 2022.
One mill equals $1 for every $10,000 in assessed property value, which is 40 percent of the actual market value.
The overall millage rate and property values are used to determine owners’ property taxes.
Three public hearings for the county millage rate will be held at the Forsyth County Administration Building, located at 11 E. MainStreet, on Thursday, July 7 at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. and on Thursday, July 21 at 6 p.m.
The rate is planned to be adopted at the commissioner’s regular meeting on Thursday, July 21 at 6:30 p.m.
The millage discussion came on the heels of annual property assessments recently being mailed to county residents, which were higher than in previous years.
County commissioners said while the assessments were going up, it didn’t mean the expenditures for the county would raise at the same rate.
“I think when we do take this to public hearing, it will be important for us to be able to roll through what the real changes are as far as our revenue and what we’re doing with what we have as far as service levels and those types of things so the community can better understand how we use their money and what the reality is,” District 5 Commissioner Laura Semanson said.
Due to the increase in assessments, the county’s revenues are expected to increase by a total of $8.9 million this year, though about $6 million is going to bond debt.
District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said in upcoming public hearings, the county should show the board is “not growing government with that money, but that we are looking to the future with it.”
“We’re using it in a wise way that is… lowering their tax in the future with it,” she said.
County Manager Kevin Tanner said the finance committee – of which he, Mills, Semanson, Turk and District 2 Commissioner Alfred John were members – said the county’s current plans would save money in the long run as it would help reduce the county’s bond rate.
“When that happens, that will do away with the need for the millage for the bond debt,” Tanner said. “So, by investing this and defeasing bonds early, we’re not only saving interest, but ultimately, long-term, we’re going to save the future taxpayers and current taxpayers of Forsyth County money.”
Tanner said the plan would mean the bond debt would be paid off by 2031, instead of the original plan of 2035, and the county could pay it off even quicker.
During a presentation on the county’s budget for 2023, Turk said the county’s general fund was projected to have $186.1 million in revenues, $180.6 million in expenditures and a contingency of $5.5 million.
Turk said the 2023 fire general fund was projected to have $37.7 million in revenues and expenditures will be balanced with the revenues.
The bond fund is also projected to bring in $26.8 million in revenues from property taxes and other sources.
The county’s millage rate has sat at 7.896 since 2021, a reduction from 7.936 in 2019 and 2020 and 8.036 in 2018.
County officials said Forsyth’s tax digest is expected to grow 13.46%, of which “4.62% is due to new construction in 2021 and the remaining 8.84% comes from increased values from reassessments.”
Property assessments and the millage rate have been popular topics since the assessments were mailed out a few weeks ago.
In a recent news release, Forsyth County Chief Appraiser Mary Kirkpatrick said the property assessments are based on fair market property values, which she said have risen 18% to 20% over the last year.
Kirkpatrick said also those with a floating homestead exemption – which applies to county and fire portions of the millage rate and freezes assessments at the previous year’s value and keeps them at that rate as long as the homeowner lives there – would not see as much of an increase.
For those over 65, the county also offers a school tax homestead exemption, which grants 100% exemption from school tax and bonds. That exemption requires that no children live in the home for longer than a year unless they are the applicant’s natural or adopted child, foster child or the property owner has been appointed legal guardian of the child.
Those who feel their assessment saw too much of an increase will have until Monday, July 1 -- 45 days after assessments were mailed -- to file an appeal.