In the past the city has always set one rate, but recent information leads some to believe the city should be setting separate millage rates in both counties based on the amount of local option sales tax revenues (LOST) it receives.
Since 2008, the city has set its millage rate at 6.775 mills and City Manager Larry Wood is recommending the council do the same this year and the dual millage rates be addressed next year after the city finishes LOST negotiations with Carroll and Douglas counties.
“It’s just consistency,” Wood said. “We continue with what we’ve done for at least the last nine years. Next year we’ll have new LOST numbers and we’ll go from there, unless we’re told otherwise by the Department of Revenue before July 17.”
If separate millage rates are indeed required, the millage rate in Douglas County could be significantly higher based on current LOST numbers and Carroll County’s millage rate could drop.
“Ultimately, the Department of Revenue is going to have the final say in how we calculate the millage rate,” Mayor J. Collins said. “Regardless of whether they tell us we have to do one or two, I’ve always been an advocate of lowering the millage rate because I think the tax digest has grown and people 35, 40 years ago didn’t have much of a millage rate. It’s a shame that as the tax digest has grown the millage rate has gone up.”
The city has either rolled its millage rate back to offset property tax increases or left it at its current level for more than a decade, though Collins said he’d like to see it lowered even further. With the tax digest dropping in recent years to a decrease in property values, the rollback rate is technically higher than the 6.775 mills proposed by Wood.
“We’ve rolled the millage rate back numerous times over the years and I think that’s important, but at the same time I think we have the opportunity to lower it if the council would support that,” Collins said. “I say lower it and I’ve always been an advocate of that. I haven’t spoken to any other council member, so I don’t know what their feelings on it are, but I can tell you that as a property owner in Villa Rica I’d like to see the millage rate go down.”
According to Wood, if the city has to set separate millage rates using current LOST numbers, Douglas County’s millage rate would increase from 6.775 mills to nearly 9.1 mills and Carroll County’s millage rate would go down from 6.775 mills to 6 mills. Even though the city’s LOST proceeds will likely increase significantly when negotiations with Douglas County are complete, Douglas County’s millage rate is still likely to increase to 8.1 mills based on the LOST share Douglas County has proposed.
“If we can get what we’ve proposed, the millage rates would be very close between Carroll and Douglas,” Wood said.
Collins said that residents in both counties can help the LOST negotiations by contacting their representatives at the county level to suggest they be fair in their dealing with the city and ultimately the city residents who are also county taxpayers.
“We’ve done our budget process for the fiscal year and we know how much revenue it’s going to take to operate the city of Villa Rica, so I would encourage our residents, whether they live in Carroll County or Douglas County, to call your district commissioner and your county commission chair to tell them how important it is that they receive their fair share of the LOST because that affects your property taxes far more than the city of Villa Rica does,” Collins said.