Commissioner Tommie Graham made the motion to increase the 2013 millage rate for fire and rescue services.
“We heard from Matthew Chambers, chairman of the Paulding County Fire Advisory Board, that the fire tax was falling short,” Graham said. “The chairman [Austin] did propose doing a rollback of 2.2 mills, but I propose that we increase that millage rate to 3.1 mills.”
The current fire and rescue millage rate is 2 mills, and Graham said increasing it to 3.1 mills would restore fire department funding levels to what it was when the fire tax was created in 2008.
According to Graham, when the fire tax was established, 1 mill brought in $4.3 million. Under today’s tax digest it only brings in $2.8 million, he said. On a house appraised at $200,000 in 2012, an increase of 1 mill would mean an increase of $57 in annual property tax for homeowners, according to Finance Director Tabitha Pollard.
Graham said raising the fire tax would provide funding for 20 to 21 more firefighters, two new substations and a new fire station, which would decrease the county’s Insurance Service Office rating in areas where it is high and reduce home insurance premiums.
Commissioners passed the fire tax amendment to the proposed fiscal year 2013 budget 3-2, with Graham, Barnett and Pownall for the amendment and Austin and Ragsdale against it.
The action came after Graham earlier had moved to amend the proposed 2013 budget by increasing the millage rate from the current 7.6 mills to 8.364 mills to generate the same amount of revenue from the county’s current tax digest as the 2012 budget.
The motion included decreasing the amount in a fund for a proposed reservoir from $500,000 to $400,000, allocating $350,000 to a non-departmental fund for the paving of roads in five subdivisions. The board voted 3-2 against the motion, with Graham and Commissioner David Barnett for it and Chairman David Austin and Commissioners Todd Pownall and Larry Ragsdale against.
Graham had stated at a July 10 work session that if the county raised the millage rate, it would bring in the same amount as fiscal year 2012 — though that amount would still be $4.5 million less than in 2009.
Pownall also said he wanted to discuss the fiscal year 2013 budget in a future work session. He said he felt commissioners discussed the 2012 budget more before voting on it than this year’s budget.