Property owners in Forsyth will see a decrease in their 2021 taxes. City council unanimously voted to set the millage rate at 2.5 at its Sept. 7 meeting. Council had set a tentative rate of 3 mills, the same as last year, which meant that it couldn’t go higher but could go lower in finalizing the rate.
City manager Janice Hall recommended that the city keep millage at 3 mills even though the city anticipated collecting more taxes at 3.0 than last year because property values have increased due to improvements and increases in assessments. She said the city advertised the anticipated 3 mills for 2021 even though the city wasn’t legally required to advertise its anticipated tax rate or to hold a public hearing for input from citizens regarding it.
“I entertain lowering the rate because citizens in Forsyth pay both city and county taxes,” said council member John Howard. “We have been fortunate enough to function without depending on the millage rate. We have seen income from utilities significantly increase.”
Howard motioned to set 2021 millage at 2.5, and council member Julius Stroud seconded the motion.
“I agree with your sentiments,” said Mayor Eric Wilson.
Wilson said that at 2.5 mills property owners will see a decrease in the taxes they pay. He said the total decrease in revenue to the city will be about $16,000. At 3 mills Forsyth anticipated collecting $395,608. At 3 mills in 2020 Forsyth anticipated $356,694 in property taxes. Forsyth has set its rate at 3 mills since 2016, when that equaled $312,372 in taxes. Previously Forsyth has had a 5.6 mills tax rate.
“You don’t use it to balance the budget,” said Hall. “If the value of a house is the same, it will be the same. Not everybody’s taxes will increase.”
However, generally across Georgia, assessments on residential property increased in 2021, although the same wasn’t true of commercial property or land without improvements. Wilson said that setting the rate at 2.5 mills would guarantee that everyone gets a decrease whereas staying at 3 mills wouldn’t be a decrease for most taxpayers.
“We have a $5.7 million park plan and this is the money we use,” said Hall.
In about 2017 council voted to use property tax money for special projects rather than allowing it to be part of the city’s general fund as it had been previously. Since then the city has used the funds for passive recreation projects to improve quality of life for citizens and attract tourists to the city. The city is annually implementing parts of its master plan for its parks.
Council member Mike Dodd was absent from the Sept. 7 meeting because of family illness, but he had advocated eliminating Forsyth’s property tax gradually, beginning with the reduction to 3 mills. The next year it was decided to earmark the tax for special projects rather than further reduce it at that time.
Citizens are billed for Forsyth property tax along with county and school board taxes, with the city paying the county a percentage to handle the collection. The county is also reducing its 2021 millage and the school board set its millage at the rollback rate, which is a lower rate that lets it collect approximately the same revenue as it had in 2020.