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It’s official, Gwinnett: Your property taxes are going up

It’s official, Gwinnett: Your property taxes are going up.

In a split 3-2 vote Tuesday afternoon, the county’s Board of Commissioners set its overall millage rate at 13.51 mills, a net increase of about 0.334 mills from 2016’s rate. County officials have estimated that owners of an “average” house in Gwinnett — valued at $200,000 — will see a spike of about $21, or 2.3 percent, on their annual tax bill. 

The extra money collected by the county, officials said, will help balance the 2017 budget — and also help address retention issues among Gwinnett’s law enforcement officers.

“It is our responsibility to make sure that the services we provide are to the standards that they require,” District 2 Commissioner Lynette Howard said. “And to make sure that we have the safety that we need for our citizens.”

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The Gwinnett County Police Department has struggled with attrition for years, in part because of new city departments elsewhere in metro Atlanta being able to offer better salaries.  Chief financial officer Maria Woods has said the county is about 7 percent behind comparable jurisdictions in pay for entry level public safety jobs. 

The department is currently more than 100 officers short of full staff. The 2017 county budget approved by the Board of Commissioners earlier this year included plans to give up to 250 officers, plus more than 200 sheriff’s deputies and 55 corrections officers, the chance for 6 percent pay raises

A new rank and accompanying paygrade were also created for experienced officers. The increased millage rate will help pay for those changes, officials said.

District 3 Commissioner Tommy Hunter and District 4 Commissioner John Heard voted against raising the millage rate. Heard made a failed motion to adopt a “revenue neutral” rate of 12.718 mills — a level that would generate the same revenue created in 2016.

Heard said he made the motion based on what he was hearing from the public.

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The Board of Commissioners held three public hearings on its millage rate. Only about a dozen people, total, attended the meetings.

Most were against the millage rate increase. Paul Tucker, a retired Gwinnett County police major, had a different point of view.

"I don’t want to pay more taxes,” the 29-year GCPD veteran said during Monday night’s public hearing. “But this is critical. We are absolutely at a critical point.”

School taxes will also factor into Gwinnett homeowners' tax bills.

The county’s Board of Education opted to hold its own millage rate steady at 21.85 mills, meaning only homeowners whose properties have increased in value will pay more school taxes than in 2016.

About 63 percent of the county’s residential properties saw a change in value on this year’s assessments, chief appraiser Stewart Oliver said in April. The average change in those properties was an increase of about 12 percent. 

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The AJC's Tyler Estep keeps you updated on the latest happenings in Gwinnett County government and politics. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories:

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In other Gwinnett news:

A&E's show "The First 48" wants to film in Gwinnett. The provocative documentary series follows homicide detectives after a suspicious death. Police Chief Butch Ayers is all for it to publicize officers' hard work. "The First 48" shows viewers investigations, interrogations and forensics.

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