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Roswell City Council cuts property tax rate

ROSWELL, Ga. — Following a rise in property values over the past year, the Roswell City Council voted unanimously Sept. 12 to adopt a rollback tax rate of 4.463 mills to ease the burden on local taxpayers.

Elected officials voted on second reading to reduce the property tax rate for fiscal year 2023 by 5.4 percent from the previous year. It is the lowest the rate has been in 35 years.

City Councilman Mike Palermo, who has been pushing for a rollback rate along with Councilwoman Christine Hall and former Councilman Marcelo Zapata, said that in the past, just because the millage rate has gone down, it doesn’t mean that residents wouldn’t see a tax increase. That’s because the millage rate was not rolled back enough to make up for increased tax assessments.

“I do not feel elected officials should decide if our taxes go up, so that’s why I’m so glad this body decided that they would decide to not raise taxes,” Palermo said. “I really feel it should be voters that decide if our taxes go up.”

In July, the Roswell City Council voted in favor of placing a bond referendum on the November ballot, which will include three separate questions.

They include a $107.6 million bond for recreation and parks, bike/pedestrian improvements and sidewalks; a $52 million bond for a new police and fire headquarters and new fire stations throughout the city; and a $20 million bond for a new parking deck in historic downtown Roswell.

The city will host the first of five public meetings about the bond referendum on Sept. 20 at East Roswell Park. The other meetings are Oct. 4 at Hembree Park, Oct. 18 at Roswell Area Park, Oct. 25 at the Roswell Adult Recreation Center and Oct. 26 at St. Andrew Catholic Church. All of the meetings will be from 7 to 9 p.m.

The City of Roswell represents about 15 percent of residents’ total tax bill. Fulton County Schools account for 55 percent, and Fulton County government represents 30 percent. Historically, the city says it has had one of the lowest millage rates in North Fulton County.

The rate of 4.463 mills currently represents the second lowest rate in the area.

In August, Johns Creek voted to hold its millage rate steady at 3.986 mills. But, even with the city’s millage rate remaining unchanged from FY 2022, some Johns Creek residents will still see their taxes increase because of rising property value assessments. The Johns Creek City Council did, however, vote to use part of its 2022 budget surplus to defray some of that increase.

Fulton County estimates the overall value of property in Johns Creek has increased 9.5 percent from $4.9 billion last year to $5.4 billion in 2022. In comparison, the assessed value of all property in Roswell has increased 12 percent from $6.6 billion last year to $7.4 billion in 2022.

Much of the change is attributed to reassessment of real existing property.

Johns Creek maintains tax rate, expects $2.3 million more in revenue

Roswell Finance Director Ryan Luckett told Appen Media the assessed value of residential property has grown by $741 million, or 15.5 percent, and commercial property by $75 million, or 4.6 percent, which will be added to the tax digest.

Luckett said that over the last five years, the tax digest in Roswell has grown an average of 9 percent annually. But, while the city is expected to collect approximately $675,000 more than the prior fiscal year because of new construction across the city, it will not realize any additional revenue from inflationary growth in the digest.

“By adopting the rollback millage rate, the city will actually be collecting about $600,000 less in the general fund than anticipated in the FY 2023 budget,” Luckett said. “However, mayor and council planned for this by setting aside funds in the fund balance to make up that difference.”

The property tax rate comprises two components.

The maintenance and operations portion funds basic city services like public safety and parks. For FY 2023, the M&O portion of Roswell’s millage rate will be 4.363, which represents a 5.5 percent decrease from last year. The debt service portion funds the repayment of voter-approved, bonded debt. It will remain the same as last year at .100 mills.

In 2018, the Roswell City Council lowered the millage rate from 5.455 to 4.955 for FY 2019, a level it had been kept at since 2008, to help offset the impact of increased property assessments in Fulton County. Luckett said the millage rate has dropped by nearly 1 mill, or 18 percent, since FY 2018, representing $180 in annual savings for the average home.

Johns Creek maintains tax rate, expects $2.3 million more in revenue

Additionally, because voters in Roswell approved the adoption of a “floating” homestead exemption in November 2018, the annual increase to a property tax bill was capped, starting in 2019. Citywide, Roswell residents have seen more than $5.1 million in tax savings annually because of homestead exemptions, including for those 65 years of age and older and disabled residents.

The next City Council meeting is Sept. 26 at City Hall.

Reach Chamian Cruz at 770-847-8079. Follow her on Twitter @xchamian.