Monroe County Commissioners made it official last Thursday that they won’t raise property taxes in 2019.

At the recommendation of county finance officer Lorri Robinson, commissioners unanimously approved on Thursday, Sept. 5 to set the final 2019 millage rate at 13.291 mills, a .04-mill reduction from 2018 when the county’s millage rate was 13.331 mills.

Under the 2019 millage rate, a Monroe County resident with a home valued at $200,000 and a $12,000 Homestead exemption would pay about $903 in county property taxes.

Thanks to Monroe County’s $12,000 Homestead Exemption, double the exempted amount of any other Middle Georgia county, Monroe County citizens paid the least amount in property taxes of any Middle Georgia county in 2018, Robinson said.

Robinson said the county’s current 2020 balanced budget calls for revenues in the amount of just over $30.5 million. She said by setting the 2019 millage at 13.291 mills, the county would have about $149,000 left over once the county hires five additional employees and spends about $823,000 in capital expenses. She said nine more fire/EMS employees are slated to be hired in 2020, costing an additional $450,000, but she said funding for those employees will come from fire service fees.

District 1 commissioner Larry Evans said he wants the county’s 2020 contribution to Monroe County Hospital (MCH) to be increased from $900,000 to $1.2 million, the maximum amount allowable after Monroe County citizens approved in 2017 a tax hike of up to one mill to save the hospital. However, county commission chairman Greg Tapley said the $900,000 the county gave MCH in 2019 was more than sufficient since the hospital also received Georgia Heart Fund donations.

“At the end of the year, at the end of the last financial report from the hospital, they had a surplus of $1.2 million to $1.5 million,” Tapley said. “They should have paid some of that back to the county is what they should have done, but they didn’t. And so anyway, definitely lowering it down to $900,000 was not inappropriate at all. The hospital has got to start making it on their own. They need to be at least breaking even, and I think they’re on the path to doing so.”

Commissioners took no action on Evans’ request at Thursday’s meeting.

Robinson added that for the first time in more than a half-dozen years, Monroe County Commissioners will not need to get a Tax Anticipation Note (TAN) to borrow money to pay bills until property tax revenues come in at the end of the year. She said the county has about $2 million in reserves, a comment that sparked applause from several commissioners.

Commissioners raised property taxes by one mill in both 2015 and 2016 before a one-and-a-half-mill hike in 2017. Commissioners then kept a millage rate of 13.331 mills in 2018, a minuscule tax hike due to a slight digest increase.