Richmond County school system lowers mill rate, raises taxes

The Richmond County School Board is cutting the property tax rate by 8.6% to 17.65 mills, the lowest in nearly 20 years, officials said Thursday.

However, ratepayers may not feel much relief as lower mileage competes with rising property values. Rising property values, meanwhile, have led to cuts in state funding for schools in Richmond County.

And despite the tax cut, state law requires the board to advertise the new rate as an increase because it hasn’t adopted the “regressive” mileage rate that would generate the same revenue as last year. . Adopting the drop-out rate would have cost the system $357,000, according to a statement posted on the school system’s website.

The Columbia County School Board announced a reduction in mileage on Tuesday after previously announcing a 14% increase. The adopted rate of 17.35 thousandths is the lowest in the system since 2012, according to a press release.

What is the impact on my bill?

The mileage rate is applied to every $1,000 of a property’s assessed value to determine the owner’s tax bill. Only 40% of the value is taxed.

Using a $250,000 Augusta home with a homestead exemption as an example, the new mileage rate would reduce the homeowner’s estimated school taxes by 8.6% to $1,683. But last year, when the same house was valued at just $230,000, the school portion was $1,606.

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Richmond County has not released revenue projections based on the growth of the tax “summary” or the total value of all taxable properties. But the widespread rise in property assessments has affected 73% of homeowners, with 88% of increases attributed to inflation in selling prices.

The spikes added $2.3 billion to the tax summary, but many homeowners who have no intention of selling their homes said the sudden increases didn’t seem fair, while the school system could end up losing out funds accordingly.

The school board has raised taxes in four of the past five years and last year it increased the mileage rate to 19,312 mils which added about $40 to the school tax on a one-bedroom house. worth $125,000 and generated $6 million in additional revenue for the school system. .

Growth brings cuts

And while that would apparently increase revenue for the school system, the digested growth poses a problem under the state’s quality basic education formula for Richmond County, school leaders said. School system administrator Venus Cain warned last week that the resulting state funding cuts would likely lead to higher taxes.

This year, the state will decrease two segments of Richmond County’s QBE funding that total $7.7 million, according to system chief financial officer Bobby Smith.

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The QBE formula, intended to ensure equitable funding for public education in all counties in Georgia, uses the tax summary to help determine how much a system should contribute to local funds, as well as how much additional grants it should. he can receive.

But the formula actually uses the summary from two years earlier because it takes the state that long to finalize the information, Smith said.

So, based on a 2020 summary increase, the system’s “local fair share” of five factories or $27 million has been increased by $1.2 million, meaning the system must contribute the additional amount in local funds, he said.

The biggest impact is on the system’s QBE equalization grant, which aims to level funding in Georgia counties that have varying amounts of digested wealth. With the local increase, the system will lose $6.5 million in equalization grants, bringing the grant amount to $14.1 million, Smith said.

Due to the increased mileage, the system must hold three public hearings on the new rate. Hearings will be held at noon and 6 p.m. on August 9 and 5:30 p.m. on August 16 in the council auditorium.

Jeremy S. McLain