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The Rockdale County Board of Commissioners is made up of (left to right) Sherri Washington, Oz Nesbitt Sr., and Dr. Doreen Williams.

CONYERS — The Rockdale Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday morning to keep the 2019 property tax millage rate at 20.19 mills, the same millage rate it has had since 2015. Due to property values increasing in the county, keeping the current rate the same will mean an actual increase in property taxes by 7.14 percent, or an increase of 1.345 mills.

Rockdale County is one of two counties in the state with a Homestead Option Sales Tax. Under the HOST, voters agreed to an additional 1 percent sales tax for most retail purchases in exchange for the county providing a homestead exemption on residential properties. This year the HOST is 70%, the same percentage as last year.

The vote came after three public hearings in which residents voiced opposition to keeping the rate at 20.19, instead of reducing it to the rollback rate, which would keep property taxes as the same valuation as in 2018 and would reduce the millage rate to 18.845 mills. The county would receive approximately the same amount of tax revenue it received in 2018.

They also questioned how the county will spend the tax revenue and made suggestions on how to trim the budget to keep property taxes lower.

At the hearings, Finance Director Roselyn Miller explained that the 2019 tax revenue will be used to pay the current 2019 budget, which was approved in December 2018. She added that that this is the first budget since 2015 that the county has not had to use its reserve fund to help balance.

In regards to the HOST, Miller stated the county would have needed to collect $19 million in sales tax to give a 100% HOST exemption, but that since only $16 million in sales tax was collected, the exemption stayed at 70%.

Chair Oz Nesbitt Sr. noted at the meetings that the tax revenue helped pay for one of the two new fire trucks the county purchased, as well as replacing Sheriff’s Office vehicles and radios. He noted that the county has also hired new firefighters and purchased the equipment they need.

Nesbitt said the heavy rains in April illustrated that aging pipes and culverts are causing problems around the county with stormwater runoff and replacing and repairing them is going to be a major cost for the county this year.

He added that they are also working on pay adjustments for employees in order to keep employees they have trained from going to other counties that offer better pay. The 2019 budget did not include any pay raises for employees.

Miller noted that some of the other things the 2019 budget and tax revenue are paying for include:

♦ An increase in the Meals on Wheels funding in order to add more citizens onto the Meals on Wheels program.

♦ An increase in facilities maintenance for 32 county facilities.

♦ Tennis courts resurfacing

♦ More arts and culture classes and camps

♦ Increased staff for park facilities

♦ Ten unsafe structures for demolition

♦ The pavement maintenance program in the transportation department

♦ 24/7 medical and mental health care at the jail

Following the vote Tuesday morning, Nesbitt thanked everyone who came out and participated in the millage rate hearings.

“I think this has been a very robust discussion,” he said. “I don’t want to close out without thanking our Public Relations department for the video, and thank Director Miller, who did a fantastic job last week. She brought a lot of information that really cleared up a lot of questions. During the series of meetings she was able to take down notes, and during the last meeting, she was able to answer all of those questions up front. That really proved quite helpful.”

Senior Reporter

Born and raised in Decatur, Ga. Graduated from Shorter College in Rome, Ga. in 1979 with B.A. in Communications. Worked in community newspapers for 26 years. Started at Rockdale Citizen/Newton Citizen in January 2016.