The Cherokee County Board of Commissioners approved advertising a proposed millage rate for the 2023 fiscal year, which reflects a reduction in the current millage rate to fund the county’s 2023 budget.
The advertised rate for Maintenance and Operations is 4.995, down 4.2 percent from the current millage rate of 5.212 mills. One mill is equal to $1 per $1,000 of assessed value – a property’s assessed value is 40 percent of its fair market value. The Board cannot approve a rate more than the one that is advertised. The Board officially will set the millage rate in late July following three public hearings.
“Homeowners who have a homestead exemption will see at least a 4.2 percent decrease in the County Maintenance & Operation tax,” said Chairman Harry Johnston. “For that portion of the tax bill, those properties are protected from any increase in property value assessments. Their exemption amount automatically increases to keep their net taxable value the same.”
About 61 percent of the residential properties in Cherokee County have a homestead exemption.
For non-homestead properties, the County Maintenance & Operation tax will increase by the same percentage as their increase in property value assessment, minus the 4.2 percent rollback of the millage rate. For the average of all properties combined, the advertised rate represents an 8.4 percent increase from the state-calculated rollback rate of 4.609 mills.
At the June 21 regular meeting, District 3 Commissioner Benny Carter made the motion to advertise the rate of 4.995 mills, which was seconded by District 1 Commissioner Steve West. The motion was unanimously approved.
This will be the 11th consecutive year the Board of Commissioners has not increased the millage rate. In the last eight of 10 years, the Board has reduced the millage rate.
The total general fund budget (funded by the M&O millage rate) is estimated to be about $138 million, allowing for funding for the fourth Superior Court judge recently approved, but not fully funded, by the state, 7 percent cost-of-living increases for employees and 31 new positions countywide to better serve the community. Of the total general fund budget, 53.5 percent funds public safety, 20 percent funds judicial services; and 16 percent funds general administration. The remaining portions fund public works, culture and recreation, housing and development, and health and welfare.
The Board also is considering lowering the fire district millage rate to 2.984 mills, down from the current rate of 3.292 mills. The fire district budget, which is funded by the fire district millage rate, is estimated to total about $46 million and would fund 11 new positions and a 7 percent cost-of-living increase for fire personnel and staff.
For the parks bond millage rate, the Finance Department is recommending it be rolled back to 0.354 mills, down from 0.434 mills.
To illustrate the impact these millage rates would have on a homeowner, the Finance Department used an actual property in Cherokee County. The home, now valued at $482,300, experienced a 20 percent increase in value from 2021-22. That property has a homestead exemption, and the owner would see a decrease of $27 for the county M&O rate, a $46 increase for the fire fund and a $2 decrease for the parks bond.
The Board of Commissioners-controlled portion of tax bills include the maintenance and operations millage rate, as well as the fire district and parks bond. The fire district is only charged to unincorporated properties for fire service, and the parks bond is charged to all properties as determined by the 2008 voter-approved parks bond referendum. The collections from the parks bond rate repays the $90 million bond issued in 2009. The homestead exemption does not apply to either of these rates, however, the State Disability, State Disabled Veterans and surviving spouses, State CUVA (Farm Conservation Use), and State Brownfield exemptions apply to the fire district millage rate. These state exemptions also apply to the parks bond, in addition to the state age 65 (net income less than $10,000) exemption.
The Board of Commissioners does not control the School District tax rate or any millage rates set by local city jurisdictions.
The Board of Commissioners will hold three public hearings: July 5 at 6 p.m. and July 19 at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. The Board is expected to adopt the three millage rates it controls at the July 19 meeting at 6 p.m