In this March 11 file photo, Gwinnett Commission chairman Charlotte Nash answers questions during an Atlanta Press Club event discussing the county’s MARTA referendum. EMILY HANEY /
Photo: Emily Haney
Photo: Emily Haney

Gwinnett’s proposed tax hike not set in stone, chairman says

Late Friday, Gwinnett County officials announced a proposal to raise the property tax rate.

But the proposed increase is not yet set in stone.

County commission chairman Charlotte Nash said Monday that the five-member Board of Commissioners still has “a range of opinions” about where the rate should actually be set. It won’t be voted on until later this month, after three public hearings on the issue.

“The advertised rate represents the highest rate that can be set without re-advertising and holding additional hearings,” Nash told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “However, we can always set the rate lower than the one that is advertised.”

At least one commissioner, District 3’s Tommy Hunter, said he’s in favor of rolling the rate back to prevent taxes from going up.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Gwinnett proposes raising tax rate

The county’s proposal would set the general fund tax rate at 7.4 mills — slightly higher than the 2018 rate but the same as 2017’s. One mill equals $1 in property taxes for every $1,000 of a property’s assessed value.

Under the proposed hike, the owner of a home with a fair market value of $275,000 would pay about $19 more than under 2018’s rate, officials said. Those calculations assume the homeowner qualifies for a homestead exemption, which is generally granted if a home is the owner’s primary residence.

“We’re looking at all our options,” District 2 Commissioner Ben Ku said.

The general fund tax rate is not the only one used to calculate property taxes. During its scheduled July 16 vote, the county commission will consider smaller separate rates for police; fire and emergency services; development and code enforcement; and recreation funds. Proposals for those rates are not legally required to be advertised; combined, they totalled just over 6 mills in 2018.

The county’s Board of Education sets a separate tax rate as well, which accounts for the largest chunk of property taxes. The school board is proposing a total rate of 21.6 mills for 2019.

All of the rates are combined to calculate how much Gwinnett residents pay in property taxes.

By itself, the general fund tax rate proposed would bring in around $6 million more revenue than the current rate.

Nash said that if the proposed rate hike is adopted, the additional revenue would “help cover the increased costs of services” that are paid for by the county’s general fund — things like the judicial system and the sheriff’s office.

The county’s 2019 budget was set at $1.82 billion.

“I can’t speak for any other commissioner,” Nash said, “but my approach to the millage rate each year is to focus on the lowest rate that allows the county to fund mandated and core services adequately and responsibly.”

Public hearings on the tax rate proposal are scheduled for July 8 (at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.) and July 15 (at 6:30 p.m.). They will be held in the auditorium at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, 75 Langley Drive in Lawrenceville.

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