Austell Approves $5.72M Budget
The city's budget is 7 percent less than last year and includes a 28 percent increase in property taxes for residents.
Austell approved its $5.72 million budget for the 2012-2013 year. The budget has been cut 7 percent from last year’s budget and includes an additional estimated $125,000 in revenue from property taxes.
Residents will likely pay an additional 28 percent in property taxes to bring in the additional revenue needed due to a $580,000 decrease of franchise revenue from the Austell Natural Gas system, a 13.8 percent healthcare premium increase and increasing fuel prices.
The Austell City Council will vote on the millage rate increase from 3.123 mills to 4 mills in the near future. At 4 mills, the city will still have the lowest millage rate in the county. (A mill is $1 per every $1,000 of assessed value.)
Before approving the new budget, the city council held its second and final public hearing to allow citizens to give feedback about the budget.
Former Austell City Council candidate Lance Lamberton said he was opposed to the tax increase. He said the tax increase would be an additional burden for taxpayers who are already paying SPLOST and may possibly pay an additional TSPLOST if the transportation referendum passes on July 31.
“We ask that the council would vote instead to reduce spending,” said Lamberton, founder of the Cobb Taxpayers Association.
He said, the city should do what taxpayers do in their own households when their budgets are constrained. “We can’t just ask for money and expect people to give it to us…“We do not exist to serve the city as a convenient cash cow.”
Lamberton suggested the city establish a citizen oversight committee and said he would donate his copy of the book, Cutting Back City Hall, to the city as well.
Others, like Anne Turner, spoke in support of the tax increase.
Turner said her taxes have decreased because her home value has decreased, and she does not mind an increase if it means no cuts to public safety or services.
“I am perfectly willing to pay a bit more,” said Turner, who repeatedly said she was uncertain how much the increase would be. “I don’t think it’s going to have any enormous impact on us.”
Jerkins responded to Lamberton by pointing out that Lamberton paid $2.92 to the city in property taxes last year, after the county discounted his county property taxes.
Cobb County property taxes are discounted by 3 mills for all Austell residents. Austell residents who live in Douglas County do not pay county property taxes at all.
Jerkins rattled off a list of services provided by the city, including garbage pickup, October and April community cleanups, a city water department and sewer department, a 911 center and a city fire department and city police department.
“All of this, he got for $2.92 and he’s complaining about it going up,” Jerkins said to the room of residents, council members and city officials.
“I want all of you to understand what kind of bargain you’re getting from the City of Austell. We’re not robbing you…Mr. Lamberton is worried about the economy and he’s pay $2.92…Mr. Lamberton thinks we need a schooling on it. We don’t need a schooling on it,” Jerkins continued.
Jerkins told South Cobb Patch after the meeting that he addressed Lamberton directly because he distributed fliers encouraging residents to “voice your opposition” to “this burdensome tax increase.” The complete flier is attached to this article.
Joan Sanford asked what the additional 28 percent would go towards.
Jerkins responded that he wondered what the county gives Austell residents for their property taxes.
Jerkins assured residents that if the winter is not uncommonly warm and the gas system brings in needed revenue, the city will reduce the millage rate again.
“We’ll cut it back,” he told South Cobb Patch following the meeting. He said the increase was necessary. “I don’t want to cut the services. We do more services than any other city. It’s a great place to be.”
What do you think of the possible millage rate increase? Should the city cut services instead? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.
The city council also approved:
- Selling a 1978 boon truck and 1985 case loader on GovDeals.
- Purchasing a $5,200 hot water pressure washer with SPLOST funds.
- Adopting international building codes.
Additionally, Parks Department Director Jim Graham said the disc golf course, approved in May, should open in 45 days.