The Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) Mayor’s Recommended Budget for the Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County for July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018 has been submitted to the Commission for review. This budget is balanced with limited reductions to current services and includes a General Fund Operating Budget of $124.1 million for FY18, which is $3.1 million or 2.7% above the FY17 Budget.
The FY18 Mayor’s Recommended Budget proposes a millage rate of 13.95 for property tax year 2017, which is the same level as FY17. Each mill of this rate produces $1 of taxes for every $1,000 of assessed property value as determined by the Tax Assessor's Office.
Goals and objectives approved by the Mayor and Commission in December 2016 helped to guide the development of the FY18 Mayor's Recommended Budget. Some of the major items included in this budget are:
- $245,000 for a new Transit “Flex Route” in the north and east of Athens-Clarke County, which will provide flexible transportation access to underserved areas, offset in part by a reduction in evening services from 9:45 p.m. to 7:45 p.m.;
- the establishment of a Police Residency Program for Athens-Clarke County police officers who locate to or live in Athens-Clarke County with a monthly stipend and relocation assistance beginning in January 2018;
- the transfer of two existing positions from the Planning Department to create a Geographic Information Office and one existing position from the Leisure Services Department and one existing position from the Central Services Department to create an Sustainability Office, both reporting directly to the Manager, to improve these important organizational functions;
- $1.5 million across all funds to provide a 1% pay increase, plus a $300 across-the-board pay increase, for Unified Government employees;
- $200,000 toward the recruitment and capture of scheduled passenger air service at Athens Ben Epps Airport; and
- $75,000 to provide seed funding for initiatives that emerge from the Envision Athens program.
The recommended budget will add six full-time positions, increasing the total number of authorized positions to 1,641. At this level, the Unified Government’s ratio of full-time positions to community population remains below 14 per 1,000 citizens.
As the Tax Assessor's Office annually updates the total tax digest – the estimated market value of taxable property – Georgia law requires that Athens-Clarke County calculate a "rollback" millage rate. The FY18 rollback millage rate is calculated as the millage rate needed to produce the same total revenue on the 2017 tax digest that the FY17 millage rate would have produced had no reassessments or inflationary increases occurred to property such as land, buildings, and improvements.
The recommended 13.95 millage rate for FY18 would increase estimated property tax revenues to be levied in 2017 by 4.25% over the rollback millage rate. This increase in revenue over the rollback millage rate is due to inflationary growth or reassessment growth in the market value of existing real property.
This does not mean all property owners will see a 4.25% increase in their property taxes. Individual taxes are based on the current assessed value of real property that may remain the same, increase, or decrease depending on the market value of each parcel of property.
Without this tentative property tax revenue increase, the FY18 millage rate would be no more than 13.381 mills. The proposed tax increase for a home with a fair market value of $175,000 is approximately $34.14. The proposed tax increase for non-homestead property with a fair market value of $225,000 is approximately $51.21.
Even maintaining the current millage rate of 13.95, the homeowner of a median priced home will continue to pay similar or lower property taxes than many neighboring communities and similar-sized communities in Georgia. A report comparing tax mills, taxes, and exemptions for Athens-Clarke County and both local and comparably-sized communities is available on the website at www.athensclarkecounty.com/budget.
The Athens-Clarke County Commission is scheduled to adopt the FY18 Budget at their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, June 6, 2017 at 6:00 p.m. in the Commission Chamber on the second floor of City Hall, 301 College Avenue.
Before the Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission finalizes the FY18 Budget and sets the 2017 millage rate, Georgia law requires three public hearings to allow the public an opportunity to express their opinions on the increase. In addition to these three required public hearings, the Athens-Clarke County Commission is scheduled to review the FY18 Mayor’s Recommended Budget at a series of meetings.
These budget-related meetings will take place:
- Thursday, May 4 at 5:30 p.m. in the Snipes Water Resource Center at 780 Barber Street (Taxpayer's Bill of Rights public hearing #1 followed by a Mayor & Commission budget review)
- Thursday, May 11 at 5:30 p.m. in the 120 West Dougherty Street Governmental Building Auditorium (Mayor & Commission budget review after meeting with state legislative delegation - no public comment)
- Monday, May 15 (if needed) at 5:30 p.m. in the 120 West Dougherty Street Governmental Building Auditorium (Mayor & Commission budget review - no public comment)
- Tuesday, May 16 at 6:00 p.m. in the City Hall Commission Chambers at 301 College Avenue (Taxpayer's Bill of Rights public hearing #2 followed by the Mayor & Commission Agenda Setting Session)
- Tuesday, June 6 at 6:00 p.m. in the City Hall Commission Chambers at 301 College Avenue (Taxpayer's Bill of Rights public hearing #3 followed by the Mayor & Commission Regular Voting Meeting to adopt FY18 Budget and 2017 millage rate)
The FY18 Mayor’s Recommended Budget will be available beginning on Friday, April 28 and can be reviewed on Athens-Clarke County’s website at www.athensclarkecounty.com/budget. Copies of the FY18 Mayor's Recommended Budget will also available beginning on Friday, April 28, 2017 for public inspection during normal office hours at the following locations:
- the Clerk of Commission’s Office in City Hall, 301 College Avenue, Suite 204;
- the Manager's Office in City Hall, 301 College Avenue, Suite 303; and
- the Athens-Clarke County Library, 2025 Baxter Street.
A budget summary section is available as part of the overall budget document.