Madison City Council sets millage rate

Katherine Klimt


In a called meeting on the evening of Thursday, Aug. 3, the city council held public hearings for and ultimately unanimously approved the proposed 2018 millage rates for the city of Madison and the special tax districts of downtown and the corridor (interstate), respectively. As with the county millage rates that were recently approved by the commission, the taxes are consistent with the 2017 budget and were uncontroversial, provoking no comments from the public.


Madison finance officer Karen Stapp presented the rates to the council. The city-wide millage rate, lowered from 6.127 in 2016 to 5.908 last year, will remain the same for the upcoming budget year. The amount of revenue received by the city, however, is projected to rise because of increased property values due to the ever-improving national and local economy. The city held three public hearings on the rates because, due to this projected increase, the city is technically leveraging a tax increase even though the millage rates are unchanged.


As Stapp explained, the millage rate is calculated according to the annual net tax digest, which is the list of all taxpayers subject to property taxes and their respective liabilities. Once the city has this information, it is able to set the millage rate by dividing the total budgeted ad valorem (“according to value”) tax revenue by the digest and multiplying that number by 1,000, yielding the millage rate. A constant ad valorem revenue value usually entails that a city may adopt the rollback rate, which refers to increasing or decreasing property values relative to their assessment in the previous budget year. When a budget adopts a millage rate that exceeds the rollback rate, it constitutes a property tax increase regardless of whether the millage rate stays the same.


Madison’s tax digest and revenues have been steadily increasing, rising by 5 percent from 2016 to 2017 for a total increase of $11,434,405. Compared to surrounding areas, Madison’s millage rate in 2016 was higher than those of Watkinsville, Rutledge and Monroe, but lower than Greensboro’s and Eatonton’s. The city’s tax revenues sustain the general fund, which provides services including the police and fire departments, animal control, recreation, roads and cemetery maintenance, among other departments.


Stapp also presented a summary of the revenues and expenses for the downtown and corridor tax districts in 2017. For the former, total revenues from ad valorem and occupation taxes totaled $27,074 and expenses added up to $46,015, for a difference of $18,941. The corridor’s expenses also exceeded its intake, but to a lesser extent: the deficiency was only $3,425. The 2017 millage rate for downtown was 1.093, and 1.277 for the corridor.


In other news:


  • The council unanimously approved a termination of services agreement for one of three railroad crossings belonging to the Norfolk Southern railroad, citing a sudden increase in fees for which the city is liable. Though previously the railroad charged $5 a year for their upkeep, the cost skyrocketed to $400 this year. Nunn sought to terminate services to a crossing that is no longer operational and seeks a permanent easement on the others to mitigate the cost increase.
  • Madison police chief Bill Ashburn presented a request to donate seven expired bulletproof vests to the county. The vests, which have passed their official warranty period and therefore can no longer be used by law enforcement, have been expired for between one and seven years and sitting in storage in the interim. Rather than just throw them away, Ashburn told the council he would like to see them reappropriated as protective lining for judges’ benches in the city, as they are likely still usable despite having officially expired. The request was unanimously approved.
  • Charles Merritt was unanimously approved for reappointment as municipal court judge following a motion by councilwoman Chris Hodges. Lee Moss was also unanimously approved for another term as city solicitor, again after a motion by Hodges. Councilman Joe Diletto praised Moss for his “efficiency and fairness,” and noted that thus far he has been “performing beyond expectations” and recommended his retention.
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