Jackson County manager Kevin Poe is recommending a two percent cut in the county's millage rate this year.
In a presentation Sept. 9 to the Jackson County Board of Commissioners, Poe presented the county's FY2021 budget. Among his recommendations, Poe proposed cutting the county's millage rate from 9.166 to 8.95 for unincorporated areas of the county and from 10.813 to 10.447 mills in incorporated areas.
Even with the lower millage rate, the county will net an additional $2.4 million in property tax revenues due to growth in the county. The county expects to collect around $30.6 million from property taxes.
The county's net tax digest hit $3.1 billion this year, the first time it has topped the $3 billion mark. The digest has gone up by $1 billion since 2015.
The BOC is slated to take action on the proposed budget and millage rate Sept. 21.
Some highlights from the proposed budget are:
• The total budget is $88.1 million and calls for using $2.4 million from reserves. Typically, however, the county takes in more than it spends and hasn't had to tap its reserves since the end of the Great Recession.
• The largest area of spending in the budget is for public safety at $27.3 million.
• Among new sources of income in 2021 will be a "payment in lieu of taxes" from SK Battery, which is building two EV battery manufacturing plants in Commerce. The total PILOT payment will top $3.39 million. $1.4 million of that will be used to pay the county's debt payment for the property. The remainder will be distributed to the BOC, City of Commerce and Commerce City School System. The BOC will get $570,000 of that for its budget.
• The county is getting $2.3 million in federal CARES Act funds. Poe proposed using some of those funds to pay for capital expenses, including 10 new patrol cars for the sheriff's office and $500,000 in seed funds to upgrade the county's radio systems.
• 2021 will be the first full year of operations for the county's new agricultural center. The center's budget is set at $305,000 for the year.
• The year will also be the first full year the newly-renovated Historic Courthouse will be used. A part-time position may be added for that.
• County employees will receive a three percent cost of living raise in the budget.
• The addition of an eighth ambulance with staffing.
• The budget includes seed money for the possible creation of a city-county land bank authority. Georgia law allows land bank authorities to acquire blighted property, forgive tax liens and redevelop the property for resale or some other use.
• One new full-time position and additional expenses for the county's elections department. The state's new voting system requires more training, supplies and workers, according to the budget documents.
• Additional help in the county's finance office to handle financial information from the county's various volunteer fire departments. Record keeping issues and documentation have long plagued the departments and county auditors.
The county has a number of new capital projects slated for 2021, including:
• A $1 million new facility at the county's waste transfer station.
• An expansion of the county's animal shelter at $750,000.
• The completion of the new Gum Springs recreation park at $750,000.
• The purchase of greenspace for passive recreation at $500,000.
• Road improvements at $650,000.
• New security cameras at the jail at $500,000 (from funds in the CARES Act.)