August 10, 2017 10:30:41 AM
Columbus city councilmen approved a 2-mill tax increase Wednesday during their second meeting on the city's Fiscal Year 2018 budget.
The Council approved the millage increase on a 4-1 vote, with Gene Taylor of Ward 1, Joseph Mickens of Ward 2, Fredrick Jackson of Ward 4 and Steven Jones of Ward 5 supporting it. Ward 3 Councilman Charlie Box opposed the vote.
Ward 6 Councilman and Vice Mayor Bill Gavin presided over the meeting in Mayor Robert Smith's absence and could not vote.
The tax increase, which takes effect at the beginning of the fiscal year on Oct. 1, will raise the city's millage to 45.69. Columbus' millage last rose for Fiscal Year 2016, to 43.69 mills from 41.23 mills.
City mills are valued at $192,000 for FY 18. The 2-mill increase will generate an extra $384,000.
Mills are used to calculate property taxes. Ad valorem tax revenue is based on the assessed value of real and personal property. So, the value of one mill helps public entities, such as counties, cities and school districts, determine how many mills to levy in taxes each year.
A person with a $100,000 home would pay an extra $40 per year in taxes with the 2-mill increase.
Jones said he understands tax increases aren't popular, but the city needed one in order to address upcoming issues.
"It's definitely not popular for me, because I'm building a new house here in the city," Jones said. "I don't want to pay more taxes either, but things have to be done, and we haven't had a tax increase in a while. In order to get things done, we have to raise taxes at some point."
Last week, Smith and city Chief Operations Officer David Armstrong presented a case for the millage increase to councilmen. They argued the extra revenue is needed for several reasons, including expanded staff in the police and fire departments, replacing aging public works vehicles, capital projects and the need to expand the landfill in about 3.5 years.
Armstrong said he and Chief Financial Officer Milton Rawle will present the council with plans for how the extra money might be used at the next budget meeting. Some of the money could be drawn from the general fund into a capital projects fund, but Rawle noted the millage cannot be directly allocated for capital projects.
"Legally, we can't allocate millage for capital expenditures," Rawle said. "What you do is you put it in the general fund, and then we do a transfer out of the general fund to move the dollars into a capital expenditure fund."
Box said he didn't necessarily oppose the millage increase itself. However, he said he felt councilmen should have waited to get a clearer picture of the FY 18 budget before approving the tax increase.
"I kind of feel like we need to do something in that area," he said. "I just think we need some more numbers to fill this out. We're showing a $13,000 surplus right now, which might be more like a $300,000 or $400,000 deficit by the time you put all this other stuff in.
"That's all I was saying," Box added. "I just wanted to wait until we got better numbers, which we'll have next week I hope."
Councilmen will meet again next Thursday to continue budget deliberations.
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