Athens-Clarke commission adopts budget, mileage rate and sets increases

Athens-Clarke commissioners passed a 2023 budget with a reduced mileage rate, but property owners in the area are unlikely to see a decrease in their tax bills. In addition, the new budget provides for higher remuneration for library staff and other government employees.

The commission this week passed its budget for the fiscal year 2023 for local government after choosing between competing proposals.

The version of the budget adopted was a committee-defined option (CDO) proposed by Tim Denson and Carol Myers. This CDO was competing with an option from Ovita Thornton and Mike Hamby. The main difference between the two budgets was the mileage rates.

The mileage rate is set each year and is part of an equation to calculate what a homeowner will pay in property taxes each year. Both options of the stewards wanted to reduce the mileage rate, but it was a matter of how much that left the stewards at odds.

Denson and Myers had a rate of 13.10 mils while Thornton and Hamby proposed a rate of 12.95 mils. Both options were lower than what Mayor Kelly Girtz originally proposed, which was a rate of 13.20 mils. The current mileage rate is set at 13.70 mills.

After:Athens-Clarke Mayor Kelly Girtz’s budget includes a pay rise for government employees

Despite the drop in the mileage rate, homeowners will likely still see their property taxes increase due to an increase in assessment.

To keep property taxes on par with what is currently collected, the commission should have reduced the mileage rate to 11.789 mils, also known as the setback rate.

“Housing values ​​are going up,” Myers said. “It’s very real.”

When it came time to vote, the Thornton and Hamby option failed 3-7, with Commissioners Thornton, Hamby and Allison Wright voting “yes”.

The Denson and Myers option was adopted by the commission by a vote of 9 to 1, with Wright dissenting.

“Really, the differences between the two CDOs are minimal,” Myers said.

The budget totals $166 million, an increase of nearly $18 million over last year. With the slight decrease in the mileage rate from Girtz’s recommended budget, an additional $16,000 in revenue had to be subtracted from the final budget.

After:Clarke County School Board approves 2023 budget, mileage rate despite some objections

The final budget is largely the same as Girtz’s proposed budget presented in April with some slight variations. Some key differences include salary changes for library staff to at least $15 an hour, which has been strongly advocated in public forums over the past few weeks.

The Clarke County Sheriff’s Office also received a boost in the new budget, with additional overtime funding now included.

Like the recommended budget, the final budget guarantees salary increases for government employees. In addition to the additional expense of $15 per hour minimum wage for library workers, there will be a 7% wage increase for several local government employees and the possibility of a wage increase of up to 2% for non-public security employees based on performance.

For public safety employees, there will be a 6% salary increase due to a phased plan implemented in fiscal year 2021. This plan outlined a phased way to raise the salaries of public safety in the following years after its creation.

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