Tia Lynn Ivey managing editor
The Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) is hopeful of the possibility to adopt a millage rate roll back this coming July. “I think all the commissioners would love to be able to take the rollback rate this year,” said BOC Chairman Donald Harris. Chief Finance Officer Lori Sayer instructed commissioners that in order to adopt a rollback rate later this year, the commissioners must set the next budget to be the same or less than the current year’s general fund budget, which is about $16.2 million. “As long as property values don’t experience a huge decrease and our budget remains the same, we should be able to adopt the rollback rate, which is the goal,” said Sayer. Sayer noted it’s impossible to estimate what the proposed rollback rate will be until after the Morgan County Tax Assessor’s Department completes this year’s property assessments. “It’s all about the property ues,” said Sayer. Last year, the BOC voted to forgo last year’s rollback rate, set at 8.89, and instead raise the millage rate to 11.31—a 19.1 percent increase to millage rate in the previous year set at 9.49.
The BOC defended their decision to raise the millage as an “inevitable” and “unavoidable” measure after years of depleting the county’s fund balance to delay raising property taxes “during the worst years of the economic recession.” According to the BOC, the fund balance once reached a high of 42 percent, but is now down to 17 percent, just two percent higher than the lowest level legally allowed. Increases in expenditures that year also contributed to the BOC’s decision to raise the millage rate. Sayer pointed out that the county had a huge increase in the cost of health insurance—a 45 percent increase, which she does not anticipate happening again this year. “It should either remain the same or increase slightly,” said Sayer. The BOC promised to be diligent when planning the 2017 budget to do everything within their power to be able to adopt the rollback millage rate in July. The BOC will begin planning the budget in the coming months, before voting on it in June.