A number of counties statewide have made, or are considering, significant hikes in property taxes to make up budget deficits. It’s become a last ditch option for local governments that have already cut spending to the bone.
Tuesday night, local commissioners in both Clayton County south of Atlanta, and in Cobb County north of Atlanta, voted yes to property tax hikes—in Clayton County’s case, potentially more than a 30 percent spike. And Crisp and Stewart counties in southwest Georgia are mulling increases of between 9 and 16 percent.
Clint Mueller with the Association County Commissioners of Georgia says for local governments, the pain of falling property tax revenues began last year. He says many were able to manage by mandating hiring freezes or furlough days.
“This year, they’re getting hit again and probably worse than they were hit last year as far as the amount of decline in their tax digest, and they don’t have as many places to cut like they did last year.”
In northwest Georgia, Whitfield County’s Mike Babb says he and his fellow commissioners aren’t there yet, but they’re getting close to considering a property tax hike. They’ve not raised property taxes in 10 years, but he says the county reserve is drying-up.
“If we don’t put forth some way of raising some more income, then we will spend down the remainder of the fund balance, we will have to go probably for a tax anticipation note before the end of the year, and then we will have just kicked this can down one more year.”
Babb says the county’s lost $1 million in property tax revenue the past year.
There are some counties doing well enough to hold the line. East Georgia’s Columbia County voted to lower property taxes last week.
That commission could also raise property taxes.