Anticipating a slight increase in property tax, the Walker County Board of Commissioners held the first of three legally required meetings on Thursday – a short meeting that explained the mileage rate tax formula, described as “confusing” .
The proposed mileage rate of 7,200 mills in the unincorporated area of Walker County represents a reduction from the 2021 rate of 8,313 mills. In the incorporated areas of the county, the proposed rate of 10,293 mills represents a decrease from at last year’s rate of 11,963 mills, according to a Walker County news release.
“But as you all know, a lot of the value of your home, your property, has gone up, and so if you have a taxable value that has gone up, that lowers the tax rate to offset some of that inflationary growth,” Shannon Whitfield, chair of the board of commissioners, said at the meeting.
Property values have increased 25% this year, according to Walker County Chief Assessor Terry Gilreath in a county news release. He also said the Walker County Assessors Office reviewed nearly 4,000 sales transactions last year, when the number is typically 1,500 deeds per year.
The proposed mileage rate would result in a property tax increase of approximately $34.92 in the unincorporated area of the county for a home with a fair market value of $225,000, and $34.58 in the incorporated areas.
(READ MORE: Walker County, Georgia proposes property tax hike)
This meeting and all meetings of the Walker County Board of Commissioners can be viewed on the county’s website and Facebook page. The county’s proposed $31.6 million budget for fiscal year 2023 is also available online.
The 2023 fiscal year begins on October 1.
“I know it gets very confusing because it’s not something we typically deal with in life,” Whitfield said.
Commissioner Mark Askew said Whitfield had done a great job explaining the mileage rate and wanted to clarify for residents that council is only in the discussion phase at this time. Board members could lower the mileage rate below what was advertised, but if they want to increase the rate, they will have to go through the process of announcing the rate and meetings again.
(READ MORE: Walker County, Georgia commission discusses adding county executive)
Less than a dozen community members attended Thursday morning’s meeting, and one resident testified, asking if he was in an unincorporated area or in a town. There are five towns in Walker County: Rossville, Lookout Mountain, Chickamauga, LaFayette, and part of Fort Oglethorpe.
(READ MORE: Walker County schools propose property tax hike with new budget)
Whitfield said the council had tried to keep county government small, but inflationary pressures were hitting the budget.
Over the past six years, he said the county’s budget has grown by about $803,000 — and $678,000 of that growth came from this year’s budget, he said. Whitfield said the county was adding an 80-cent salary increase for county employees and that 88% of the budget increase was for payroll costs.
“We’ve worked very hard over the last six years to try to keep growth as low as possible, not to expand government, by expanding government,” Whitfield said. “But when we’re sitting here in a 9% inflation cycle that we’re all in. We’re struggling to maintain employees, primarily with fire, police and 911.”
Walker County had its second mileage rate hearing scheduled for Thursday evening. The final meeting, where the budget is expected to be passed, is scheduled for Sept. 1 at 6:30 p.m. at the Walker County Courthouse Annex III, 201 S. Main St., LaFayette.