Friday February 12th, 2016 9:30PM

Clarkesville holds millage at 6.5; tax bills on the way

By Rob Moore Reporter
CLARKESVILLE - The Clarkesville City Council voted Monday night to keep its millage rate at 6.35 mills, the same it has been for each of the prior five years.

Again this year, as they have been the past three years, property values in the tax digest have decreased.

The gross digest for the city has decreased from its maximum of $199,412,333 in 2009 to $161,050,865 in 2013.

Likewise, taxes collected by the city with the rate of 6.35 mills have diminished steadily since 2009, when they were $1,256,807, to $1,014,989 in 2013.

"In 2009, the tax digest was at its peak," said City Manager Barbara Kesler during Monday night's budget hearing.

Kesler said city officials are optimistic about the future.

"We're hopeful that some construction is going to start soon," she said.

While Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax is a major source of revenue for Habersham County, the City of Clarkesville receives only 2.38 percent of the taxes collected. That translates to $132,585 received in 2012, Kesler said.

"Clarkesville's portion of the SPLOST tax collected over the past six years is $801,589," Kesler said.

She explained that of the 7 cents collected on each dollar in Habersham County, 4 cents go to the state, 2 cents go to the board of education (Education Local Option Sales Tax, Local Option Sales Tax), and 1 cent goes to the county and its cities (83.20 percent to the county, 16.8 percent spread among the cities).

The current SPLOST V expires in March 2014, Kesler said.

Under SPLOST VI, which is on the ballot for Habersham County in November, Clarkesville's share could be 6.9 percent of collections, translating to $2,344,000 - about three times the revenue received under the current SPLOST.

In the council meeting that followed Monday night's budget hearing, the council also approved the city's 2014 budget.

That 2014 budget includes the following changes from 2013:

* Increase of $11,300 (2.8 percent) in general administration to cover the employee pension plan, increased legal services, and a minimal increase in the cost of the audit. Kesler said there are no budgeted raises for employees in the 2014 budget.

* Increase of $11,707 (13.3 percent) for Main Street for Mardi Gras. An offsetting amount is found in revenues;

* Increase of $95,056 (23.6 percent) for the fire department to cover debt service on a new fire truck;

* Increase of $62,327 (12.5 percent) for an additional patrol officer so that two will be on the road during peak times (mid-afternoon to early morning) Thursday through Saturday;

* Increase of $50,816 (14.1 percent) for streets;

* Decreases of $15,813 (-8.4 percent) for water and sewer administration, $11,601 (-1.4 percent) for water plant, $28,012 (-8.4 percent) for water distribution, $5,783 (-1.4 percent) for wastewater plant, and $9,645 (-4.2 percent) for wastewater collection. Those savings were accomplished through reorganization of departments, Kesler said.

"We are still pretty much where we were at back in 2010 and 2009, still providing all the same services on 20 percent less revenue," Kesler said.

"I think this is another really tough budget that we've gone through," said Mayor Terry Greene. "I think we've done a great job to be able to fund all the departments without raising taxes."

A separate resolution setting the due date for 2013 property taxes in the city also was passed Monday night. Tax bills will be mailed during October, and will be due Jan. 28, 2014. Interest charges will begin to accrue on unpaid 2013 property tax bills beginning Jan. 29.
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