Imker: PTC taxpayers will end up paying less this year than last year
The result of the budget discussions over the past seven months, culminating with the decisive tax rate vote last Thursday, unfortunately resulted in the Peachtree City tax rate being increased.
Yes, I voted to increase it by 1.25 mills. I will not hide or disguise my vote. This means the average home with a value of $260,000 will be taxed $108 more for the services provided by Peachtree City government.
However, due to the timing of some other concurrent events, the average total tax bill will be $220 less. Please allow me to first explain the choices I had and the rationale of my vote and then I will explain why the average tax bill will be lower.
Tax Option 1 – No increase. This of course was my first choice and what I have been striving for relentlessly since I was elected. Surely it was the desire of all council members. But it could only come to fruition if cuts, such as those recommended by me, were enacted. I was outvoted 1-4 in every single motion I made.
Those recommendations did not cut services but most, not all, of the ideas did ask government employees to help share in reducing costs. Of course I was not surprised by the outcome, but most of you knew I was going to be outvoted.
I wanted to make one last effort with these motions to get this right solution implemented. If I had continued to vote for zero increase, without any compromise by any other council member, the continued deadlocked 2-2-1 scenario would have turned over Peachtree City finances to the state of Georgia. That would have been really, really bad.
Tax Option 2 – Enact a 0.5 mill increase. This was not an option as it simply, once again, kicked the problem down the road. It included more than 0.5 mill increases in the following four years. I don’t think any of us would put up with that.
Additionally, as documented by the city’s financial staff, it would have wound up in the end with a total tax rate 0.75 mill higher than necessary. This was a poor choice and everyone knows it.
The feeble attempt to demonstrate that council was doing its best to “keep taxes low” was at best misleading. Attempts to criticize a higher initial rate by saying businesses would be discouraged from coming to Peachtree City were also disingenuous.
I was not about to mislead any business by “accidentally” forgetting to tell them that, “Oh, by the way, your taxes will be going up over another 2.0 mills over the following four years.”
Tax Option 3 – Enact a 1.25 mills increase. This was the choice I eventually voted for. Much to my loathing, I choose this option because, without my recommended cuts, it at least provided a fiscally sound future for Peachtree City. It purposefully brings in more revenue than necessary next year, but it does that for a reason.
Remember the $18 million shortfall we know that’s going to hit us in three years? This plan adequately addresses that shortfall and leaves us on firm financial ground after five years. Indeed, we’ll finally have a long-term balanced budget.
Had we waited again, like previous councils, to pay for the services the residents have been getting and have not yet paid for over the last several years, your PTC taxes would be going up 15-30 percent more than necessary in the future. By doing it now we’ll pay less in the long run.
I am in almost the same situation most of you are with regards to home values and your November property tax bill. I bought a home in PTC in 2003 expecting it to be worth more after several years and am disappointed by the fair market value (FMV). Your November tax bill shows your latest FMV. We are taxed on 40 percent of FMV.
Now for why your November tax bill will actually be lower. I will use an average home value in PTC of $260,000 to demonstrate what will happen to this November’s property tax bill.
If you paid $3,775 last year, your property tax this November should be $220 less. That’s right; the average home property tax should be $3,545, even after the PTC government tax rate went up 1.25 mills. There are two reasons for this.
First, the school tax mil rate went down 1.77 mills. This means the overall tax rate for homes in Fayette county actually went down just over 0.5 mills. This was not my doing, but simply fortunate timing in regards to the impact on us, the taxpayers.
The second reason is the after-mentioned FMV decrease. Most of us should have received a lower FMV assessment from the county a few months ago. If you did, and it was an average reduction of about 4.7 percent, then your tax bill this November would be automatically calculated to be 4.7 percent less.
Please let me know if you are interested in how the budget and/or taxes work. I’d be happy to explain it. I will share any information you desire. I have read where citizens are using inaccurate information all the time. Just ask me and I’ll give you what you want to know. Everything, and I mean everything, about our government is public information.
Don’t be misinformed. I could meet you at City Hall or the library. My time is yours if you want it. I enjoy listening to folks and their stories about their adventures with government. I have even changed my mind on certain issues after listening. Let’s keep the dialog going. I’m ready and willing.
Eric Imker, Post 1
Peachtree City, Ga.