Millage Rate and Property Tax Revenue – Where Does the Money Go?

By: Ed Thompson, Preserve Johns Creek

Johns Creek City Council has held Public Hearings on July 23, 2018, regarding the 2018 Property Tax Millage Rate. Johns Creek resident and Fulton County Board of Assessors member Michael Fitzgerald makes a perfectly reasonable request: that our City Council openly and transparently share with resident the plans for the $1.2MM of incremental property tax revenue that will be collected under the updated Fulton County tax digest and Johns Creek’s proposed millage rate.

Councilwoman Stephanie Endres posed questions to Assistant City Manager, Kimberly Greer seeking to understand what additional city services justified the increase in property tax collections.  This is pertinent to the millage rate discussion because if our costs of services are not increasing, then the incremental property tax revenue is unwarranted, and should be offset by a further reduction in the millage rate.  Unfortunately, that line of questioning was interrupted by Mayor Bodker.

A reasonable request and a reasonable line of questioning. Why are some of our City Council unwilling to have an honest and transparent discussion about tax revenue and spending? Is the plan to protect a revenue windfall to cover for undisciplined spending?

Given evidence of ongoing difficulties in planning and managing budgets, it is entirely fair to question the need for incremental revenue when we are unable to manage our spending.  The lack of fiscal and financial discipline should be not be facilitated by throwing more money at those problems.  Rather, our City Council should focus on fixing the issues with an out-of-control spending problem that results in current estimates for a new City Hall that is now $2.5MM over budget, and city parks that have current development estimates at 200% over-allocated budgets.  These estimated overruns are BEFORE work has even begun.  Following the same failed process without making a dramatic change that corrects the root cause is only going to result in continued increases in taxes down the line.

Editorially, we commend Councilwoman Endres for her diligence in pursuing real answers about how our tax dollars are being allocated and pursuing accountability for good financial management.  We encourage the rest of our representatives to join efforts to put disciplines in place so that we can have confidence that our tax dollars are being carefully managed instead of wastefully spent.

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