Although the increase was minimal — about three-tenths of 1 percent on next year’s tax bills — legislation re-quires the county to hold three public hearings if the millage rate increases.
Although the rate increased slightly, Henson said the average homeowner's property tax bill would most likely show a decrease.
“On a $100,000 home using last year's 2011 millage rate, the amount of taxes owed was $851.50,” Henson ex-plained. “The same bill calculated under the 2012 rate would total $849.11, which is actually a decrease of $2.39.”
Figures presented in prior hearings predicted a 5.99 percent tax rate increase and a general fund showing a $779,000 deficit. Carl Henson, chief financial officer, reported the final amount of the deficit had been amended to $795,000 after commissioners proposed a 3 percent COLA (cost-of-living adjustment) increase for all full-time county employees to be effective April 1, 2013, (which includes 911 and Fire and Rescue).
As of last year, only six other counties in the state of Georgia boasted a property tax rate lower than Catoosa, ac-cording to county manager Mike Helton. Current rates from 2011 for Forsyth (lowest in the state), Walker, Whitfield, Fannin, Towns and Cherokee counties have rates ranging from 4.812 to 5.365. Catoosa's rate is 5.382. Although a re-spectable ranking, Helton said there's a good chance Catoosa's status could improve.
“There are a few (counties) in the top six that are actually struggling quite a bit,” Helton said, “so after their new budgets and rates are set for this year, we might find ourselves even closer to the top. We'll just have to wait and see.”
Helton said that in the past Catoosa was as low as 19th on the overall list, but with consistency it had climbed much higher.
“We've gradually climbed up the list,” Helton said, “not because we had high rates and then lowered them, but because we've always made an effort to stay consistent, especially over the past four or five years. Other counties have raised their rates, dropping them lower on the list, which in turn pushed us up higher. We've done our best to just stay steady, and it's paying off.”