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Tax rate may rise in Roswell, but tax bills to stay the same
by Joan Durbin
jdurbin@neighbornewspapers.com
May 08, 2013 10:57 AM | 2513 views | 5 5 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Updated 5/9 with correct revenue amount for 2013.

Roswell is advertising a proposed increase in taxes for 2014, but the total rate used to calculate how much property tax an owner will pay will stay at 5.455 mills, the same as the previous year.

Confused? There is an explanation, according to city officials.

“While the overall property tax rate will stay the same, the city is proposing to increase the rate for maintenance and operations and decrease the rate for debt service,” a press release about the 2014 budget says.

Because Roswell has paid off a portion of its bonded debt, annual debt payments have gone down.

So Mayor Jere Wood is advocating that some of the property tax rate that went toward paying that debt will now pay for city maintenance and operations.

The maintenance and operations rate will increase by 0.405 and the debt service rate will decrease by 0.405.

The typical Roswell tax bill on a $250,000 assessed value home would not increase from $545.50.

The city is anticipating revenues of $61.1 million in 2014, up from $59.9 million the previous year, with the increase attributed to sales tax revenues.

But even before public hearings on the proposed budget begin, some residents are saying that if the millage for debt service goes down, the other half of the millage equation should remain the same as last year. Otherwise, they say, it’s actually a hidden tax increase.

“I was hoping the Mayor’s actual budget wouldn’t ultimately include this tax increase,” Councilman Kent Igleheart said last week. “At the minimum this is a bait and switch.

“The portion of the millage rate that goes to debt service is there to pay off specific things that residents voted for. If we now take that and move it to covering operating costs, we are breaking the public trust.”

Councilman Rich Dippolito said he understood the reasoning behind the millage proposal. “Since our debt is mostly paid off, our need for debt service funding is greatly reduced, however, our need to invest in the city will continue.

“It’s unfortunate that some are saying that this is a ‘tax increase in disguise,’” Dippolito said. “The city budget process is completely transparent. The fact is that the total tax rate is not changing. If a resident’s city of Roswell tax bill was $300 last year, it will be $300 this year unless Fulton County re-assesses their property.”

Wood, who creates the proposed budget with assistance from city management staff, said the millage rate could go down if certain expenses could be cut.

“If we eliminate the police department we could substantially decrease the millage rate. If we eliminate the fire department we could also cut costs. And we could save $1.8 million every year if we stopped repairing roads,” the mayor said.

“Yes, we are proposing three new employees. We have relaxed our belt a little. But those citizens who believe we can maintain the same level of services without ever seeing an increase in taxes should know we cannot hold the line and expect the same services without paying those services’ increased costs.”

The mayor and council will hold three public hearings on the proposed budget May 13 at 7 p.m., May 20 at 6:30 p.m., and the final reading and vote on May 29 at 7 p.m. All are in the council chambers at Roswell City Hall.

Information about the proposed 2014 city budget can be found at www.roswellgov.com.
Comments
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TooPat
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May 10, 2013
On another website, the spokesman for the city labels input from contributors “misleading”. It seems appropriate that here, on the website of the city’s paid legal advertising instrument, that someone use the same word.

The city is advertising a proposed tax increase. Electronic notice is available on the Neighbor's website. Let that sink in for just a moment. The city is advertising a Proposed Tax Increase.

Is that clear enough for you? Because after reading the article, it is obvious that it isn’t clear enough for Rich Dippolito. He contradicts the legal advertising and says in part, “…it’s unfortunate that some are saying this is a tax increase in disguise.” Didn’t he get it? The city is advertising a rate increase – because that’s exactly what it is. Apparently Rich says the tax increase isn’t a tax increase. So who isn’t telling the truth, the city, or Rich? Who is misleading? Bueller? Anyone?

Mr. Dippolito goes further to suggest that the city needs money from the tax increase to “invest.” Most people understand that investment of time or money is done with the expectation of some gain. Without that expectation, it is not investment. Mr. Dippolito apparently has a history suggesting he doesn’t understand that, and it shows in his statement. Without some gain for taxpayers, or expectation or hope of gain, is it an investment? Isn’t what Rich saying just double-speak for taking and spending more of your money? Isn’t not to admit it misleading? Bueller? Anyone?

As the article notes, there is already additional revenue expected from sales taxes for the city to spend, without the tax increase that Dippolito denies yet apparently relies on. Here’s a quick quiz to convince yourself about whether this increase, in spite of extra revenue from elsewhere, is needed: Quickly, name something that impacted you that the city failed to do with last year’s budget. Now, just as quickly, name something that you want done with the ten percent increase in your taxes. Chances are, you came up with the same answer – NOTHING.

And then we hear from Jere Wood who makes what can be characterized as perhaps the stupidest statement of the past four years when he in jest suggests elimination of the police or fire department to save money. (Firstly Mayor, you don’t have that choice. But when you can’t make a valid point must you turn to the ridiculous?) Unlike many at the city, our “first responders” deserve every bit of acknowledgement we can give them. Is this ridiculous suggestion to deflect from your lack ideas on how to efficiently manage a city or because there has been no leadership to trim fat from a bloated staff at city hall? Is it because you and council are consistently run over by the city administrator? Because you can find no way to reduce, like private businesses have, the scope of the operation since the beginning of the latest recession by increasing efficiencies? Remember, Mayor, we even saw the city’s nominal population drop, but that moved the staff size, and budget, not a bit, did it? Isn’t what really is misleading is the unwillingness to control the cost for which you demand we pay?

Mr. Mayor, how about saving us money, instead of presenting a farce to defend the fat that must be supported by a tax increase? Was the mayor misleading? Anyone? Bueller?

And lastly, we have a third official telling us in so many words that he sees a “bait and switch.”

Who thinks Igleheart’s statement was misleading? Or was he the only official quoted in the article who was being honest? Bueller? Anyone? Bueller?

Lee Fleck
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May 10, 2013
Mayor Wood’s "tall tantrum" about eliminating whole departments is a ridiculously stupid comment.

No Jere, we don't have to eliminate entire departments, try just cutting 2.75% across the board or even better consider Zero Based budgeting and have department heads justify current expenditures.

Next, one must recognize that Councilman Dippolito is the liaison to the Administration & Finance department so he has a vested interest in defending the property tax increase.

At least Rich is being consistent with his remarks. To him, it's not hidden if it's been advertised. He states the process has been “completely transparent”.



From the day the city borrowed money from the banks, the city administration knew when it would retire that debt.

I am sorry, but Mr. Dippolito from the first budget hearing after he was sworn in in 2009 has known that this debt service was scheduled to be retired this year and he and the rest of Roswell’s City Council have knowingly anticipated this roll-over of debt service into a property tax increase this coming fiscal year.

So where has the city financial transparency been for the last four years?



Why weren’t city representatives honest during last fall’s public bond hearings?

Pathetically, Councilman Dippolito misses the entire point of what is meant by "disguise" and he has been deceitful.

Candidly, I am convinced that the city’s Budget & Finance departments were grossly remiss by not consuming all of the retiring debt service millage rate into last November bond. All they had to do is add another bucket.

But then the “greedy” Mayor & City Council would not have been able to con property owners out of $1.7 million annually so they can spend it on whatever they wish.

LEE FLECK
|
May 09, 2013
Last January in his State of the City Address Mayor wood proudly announced the City had $53 million in the local banks of which I might add $16 million of excess reserves, the result of over taxation of property owners.

For the forthcoming FY 2014 budget Mayor Wood is projecting an increase in sales tax of $5.9 million.

The only reason the Mayor Wants to roll over debt service monies into the general operations fund is because unlike a bond referendum in which expenditures must be spelled out, Mayor Wood can spent the additional roll over funds of $1.7 million ANNUALLY any way he wants.

For the rest of the story go to:

http://roswell.patch.com/blog_posts/roswell-city-council-at-the-wheel-of-the-get-away-car

Roswell's Budget Hawk
Roswell Resident
|
May 08, 2013
If debt is paid then we, the taxed, need to see the benefit. If our esteemed & untrustworthy Mayor wants more money for operations we should AT A MINIMUM be allowed to vote on it.

His self serving logic is unacceptable.
Lee Fleck
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May 09, 2013
RR, Excellent point.

A General Obligation Bond requires the city to spell out what they want to spend property owners monies for and the property owners do vote for the expenditures.

Buy a unilateral decision by City Council to endorse this rollover allows the Mayor to spend $1.7 million ANNUALLY any way he pleases.

Lee Fleck
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