Following the state-mandated three public hearings, the Euharlee City Council unanimously approved implementing two mils in property taxes at their Tuesday meeting, the last city in the county to either establish a property millage rate or provide services as a way to generate revenue.
"Based on our current standing, and the fact that we want to maintain a minimum fund balance of four months, a new revenue source is almost vital," City Manager James Stephens said at the last meeting. "I strongly recommend the council consider advertising for a two mil tax increase, which would generate $189,000 for the city. That equates to a $76 increase for a $100,000 house, $176 for a $200,000 house and $236 for a $300,000 house."
Councilman Tracey Queen had suggested implementing a three mil rate in anticipation of future capital expenses not in the budget.
"If we do two mils, we would get by," he said. "If we did three mils, we would have $90,000 to either set aside for projects or specify where that money is going. It's a big expenditure, but we could pay cash instead of borrowing money."
Councilman Craig Guyton wondered if the city's services were even necessary.
"The question is what do the citizens want," he said, carefully choosing his words. "Do we continue to cut services or are they interested in this. There's not a lot we can cut. We can cut an entire department. Those are very drastic cuts, but raising millage rates in a city that has never had one is a drastic step as well. It's very difficult for me to want to put a millage rate in, especially two mils when I look around at other cities that offer a lot more than we do. Is the city of Euharlee an effective steward of our citizens' money? In other words, does there need to even be a city of Euharlee? That's a fundamental question. A lot of the services we provide, people don't use. Our recreation facilities are not utilized by the majority of our citizens. We provide a museum that is mostly unused by the citizens of Euharlee. Those are fundamental questions you have to ask when considering adding a tax. It will be interesting to hear from them."
Guyton said he felt very conflicted after the vote.
"I have run twice for city council, each time pledging to keep the millage rate at zero for as long as possible," he said. "That time is now. We have been extremely frugal and up to now, never had to pay for all the services we receive — zoning, recreation, parks, streets, museums, senior services and police to name a few. It's tough, but it had to be done."
Stephens commended the council for their example of good governance.
"The council's unanimous vote to implement a millage rate in Euharlee for the first time in the city's history will provide financial stability for the city," he said. "And that will provide adequate equipment for the facilities and their upkeep. They deliberated vey diligently and made a very difficult decision. As Councilman Joe Turner said, it's not that they were in favor of the tax, but it was required not to take a step backwards."
The Euharlee City Council will hold a work session on Tuesday, Aug. 21, at 7 p.m. at Euharlee City Hall.