Whitfield commissioners cut property tax rate; leave special tax districts rate unchanged

It took three votes and about 20 minutes of discussion, but on Monday the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 to cut the property tax rate by .5 mill to 8.812 mills, down from 9.312 mills in 2018.

Chairman Lynn Laughter cast the dissenting vote. Laughter typically votes only in the event of a tie but said she felt it was important for her to vote because it was a tax matter.

Commissioners had been scheduled to vote to set the tax rate at the rollback rate, 9.196 mills, the rate that would offset any increased revenue from growth in the tax digest. Commissioner Barry Robbins appeared to catch some of the commissioners off guard when he made a motion to cut the tax rate 1 mill.

"Where are you going to find places to cut? How are you going to afford that?" said Commissioner Harold Brooker.

Laughter said 1 mill brings in about $2.5 million.

"I don't think we can find places to cut $2.5 million," she said.

Commissioner Greg Jones seconded Robbins' motion. It was defeated 3-2, with Brooker, Laughter and Commissioner Roger Crossen voting against it, and Jones and Robbins voting for it.

Crossen then motioned to set the tax rate at the rollback rate. At first, no one seconded the motion. After confirming with County Attorney Robert Smalley that she could do so, Laughter seconded the motion. But before commissioners could vote, Brooker proposed a half-mill cut in the tax rate.

"I don't think we can go any lower," he said.

Commissioners voted on Crossen's rollback motion. It was defeated 3-1, with Crossen voting in favor and Brooker, Jones and Robbins against.

Then, Brooker made a formal motion to cut the tax rate by half a mill, which was seconded by Jones.

Finance Director James Gavin said Tuesday the tax rate adopted by the commissioners will bring in approximately $24.116 million, down from $25.092 million in 2018.

The combined tax rate for the special tax districts that fund the fire department and the county's share of combined services with the city of Dalton, such as the Dalton Convention Center and the Dalton-Whitfield County Public Library, was held constant at 3.483 mills. That tax rate is expected to bring in $5.204 million.

The special tax districts are all of Whitfield County outside the city limits of Dalton.

Commissioners voted 4-0 to amend the bylaws of the 2020 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) Advisory Committee to allow a citizen or group with a project idea to present it to the committee. The bylaws had stated that citizens had to present the idea to the government that would be affected prior to bringing it to the committee.

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