Roswell has slight property tax increase

Roswell approved a small increase in property taxes as the city begins to see revenue losses caused by the pandemic.

The increase amounts to about $100,000 in extra property tax revenue city-wide, the city finance director said. Roswell’s property tax increase is necessary because of a decrease in other sources of revenue during the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Lori Henry said during an August meeting on the tax rate.

The increase will allow the city, which is in a hiring freeze, to retain at least three first responder positions, Councilman Matthew Tyser added.

According to the city, tax revenue that was expected in fiscal year 2020 from sales taxes and hotel and motel taxes and municipal court fines dropped more than $3.1 million. Together with other losses, the city’s total revenue last year amounted to $91.4 million.

The fiscal year 2021 budget of $144 million in expenditures was approved in June.

Finance Director Ryan Luckett said the city will cover any shortfall in the 2021 budget as the year moves forward.

City Council members approved the property tax increase in a split vote on Aug. 31.

An owner of property with a fair market value of $350,000 will pay an additional $2.80 on their annual tax bill, Luckett said. The increase depends on the assessed value of the property and some owners might not see an increase in their bill, Luckett added.

Tax bills paid by homeowners are a combination of city, county and school taxes. Municipalities set their own tax rates on top of the county’s in order to pay for services provided by each city.

Residents’ tax bills reflect taxes levied on the assessed value of their property and could be reduced by a homestead tax exemption, the amount removed from the assessed value of a home, or other exemptions.

Roswell properties are about 75% residential and 25% commercial. The city’s total gross tax digest was up just over 1% for fiscal year 2020, Luckett said, at $6.1 billion dollars.

Council members were divided on the tax increase. Henry broke a tie, voting in favor of the increase with Tyser, Councilmen Matt Judy and Marie Willsey. Council members Mike Palermo, Christine Hall and Marcelo Zapata voted against it.

Employee raises, road resurfacing projects and building maintenance were taken out of the 2021 operating budget as a costcutting move. At least $9.5 million is needed to add them back in, Tyser said.

“I think it’s irresponsible to do anything other than what staff recommended at this time,” he said in August.