ROCKDALE COUNTY, GA–Despite public outcry at three separate public hearings, the Rockdale County Board of Commissioners approved an 18.69 percent millage rate increase on Aug. 12.
Commissioner Doreen Williams defended the increase from 16.69 percent, saying the additional 2 mill was needed to build a new courthouse.
Said Williams: “The millage rate last year has been 16.69. As we have looked at the needs of the court, judicial complex and courthouse and administration building, we really cannot postpone that anymore. It’s been postponed for so many years…” Williams said dedicating the 2 mill would allow the county “to go to the bond market, show that we have the revenue we need to pay for it. There is no other option.”
Rosalyn Ridgeway, chair of the Rockdale County Democratic Party, condemned the BOC’s action, saying the board has eroded the public’s trust. Ridgeway is now calling for state legislators to reform Georgia’s property appraisal system.
In a letter to State Sen. Tonya Anderson and State Rep. Rhonda Taylor, who represent Rockdale County, Ridgeway called on the state legislators to reform Georgia’s property appraisal system.
Ridgeway’s letter is as follows:
Dear Senator Tonya Anderson and Representative Rhonda Taylor,
As you are aware, the Rockdale County Board of Commissioners (BOC) initially proposed a 2022 Millage Rate of 20.758 which would represent a 45.42% tax increase.
After harsh public criticism and outcry, the BOC reduced its proposed Millage rate to 18.69. Even this would be 2 mils higher than the current rate of 16.69. If they had kept the current rate, it still would have meant a tax increase due to the increase in property tax assessments. Following public pressure, the BOC has also committed to reducing the proposed budget. This whole episode has further eroded the public trust in our BOC.
According to a report by data analysts at ATTOM, the average property tax bill in Georgia jumped 11% between 2020 and 2021. It’s one of the biggest jumps in the nation but not a surprise when you consider that property values in Georgia jumped 43% over that same period. Metro Atlanta’s average property tax bill jumped 10% between 2020 and 2021 while values increased 42%.
We believe that the root of the problem manifested, not only in Rockdale, but across the State is the BROKEN PROPERTY APPRAISAL SYSTEM. We are proposing that Legislation be created to reform this broken system and to provide taxpayers far greater protection.
There are states* which have taken meaningful steps to protect the public with policies to provide transparency, accountability and fairness. We need our Legislature to step up to this challenge.
The current Georgia Property Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights is inadequate in several respects. We ask that language be drafted for review by your Legislative Counsel. We would be happy to assist in this process. The draft should provide the following:
- The Board of Assessors would be elected by the public and charged with hiring the Chief Appraiser. As we currently operate, all these positions are County employees hired by the BOC. Presently, there is no Taxpayer representation on the Board of Assessors, and they are accountable only to the State Department of Revenue.
- Limit the percentage a residential property appraisal can rise in value, for example 5% for a single-family residence
- Require that meetings of the Board of Assessors are public so that the decision-making processes are transparent. Right now, there is no transparency nor public accountability.
We regard these as minimum standards for Property Taxpayer Protections. There is much more that could be done to by the Legislature to safeguard the public and we would like to discuss these with you.
We fully understand that this is a bold request given the political realities in our State, but we must act with courage and conviction to do the right thing regardless of the politics. We will support you in that effort.
” src=”cid:clip_image001.jpg” alt=”RosRidge” v:shapes=”Picture_x0020_43″ apple-inline=”yes” class=”Apple-web-attachment Singleton” style=”opacity: 1;”>Sincerely,
Roslyn Ridgeway, Chair
Rockdale County Democratic Party
These increases only apply to county property taxes and do not factor in potential increases in property value, or the property taxes imposed by the City of Conyers and the Rockdale County Public School System. Overall, the increased percentage for county property taxes from Fiscal Year 2021 to Fiscal Year 2022, based upon the approved millage rate of 18.69 mills, is 11.98%.
County officials stated in a news release following the BOC’s approval of the millage inceaste that County Staff would work to present options to the BOC for a forensic audit as well as host public information sessions about topics that impact citizens most. BOC Chairman Oz Nesbitt, Sr. recommended no new full-time employees, reductions in training and travel, and cuts to every department’s 2023 budget.
County officials said an additional cost-saving measure includes the BOC hosting its Annual Board Retreat in 2022 at a location within Rockdale County.
For more information, citizens can visit rockdalecountyga.gov/millage-rate, or call 770-278-7000.