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Proposal to Reduce City Property Taxes Nixed By City Council 4-2

Johns Creek councilman Brad Raffensperger introduced a resolution to reduce taxes by 1 millage rate per $1,000 of assessed property value.

Johns Creek Council member Brad Raffensperger proposed a 1 mil reduction in property taxes at the Jan. 7, 2014 City Council meeting. Photo: City of Johns Creek
Johns Creek Council member Brad Raffensperger proposed a 1 mil reduction in property taxes at the Jan. 7, 2014 City Council meeting. Photo: City of Johns Creek
In the first City Council meeting of the year, Council member Brad Raffensperger proposed a resolution to lower city taxes by one mil beginning with the city's 2015 fiscal year.

His reasoning: The city is on solid financial footing currently running an annual surplus of $600,000 to $700,000, its rainy-day fund has grown by $15 million and the city will be collecting for the next 10 years an additional $1.8 to $2.5 million a year from a Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) settlement with Fulton County.

"We've run a good ship, we've (the city) lived within our means and we've kept our millage rate at 4.614 for the past seven years," said Raffensperger.

"We are in better shape than many of our tax payers," said Raffensperger. "Now is the right time to do it." His proposal was to reduce the millage rate to 3.614 mils per $1,000 of assessed property value.

Raffensperger pointed out that not only would the residents benefit from reduced taxes, but it would help Johns Creek businesses as well.

"There is a nearly 50 percent vacancy in Johns Creek Tech Park," said Raffensperger who added that the lower millage rate would help attract new businesses to move into the city.

"Lower taxes benefit everyone," he said.

But his resolution was voted down 4-2 by the council - with only Ivan Figueroa voting in favor of reducing taxes.

"I appreciate the spirit and like the concept, but I would be hard pressed to vote on this," said Mayor Bodker who favored keeping the millage rate as is and use the monies to pave the city's subdivision streets. "Personally, I can't support the motion," said the mayor during the meeting.

Figueroa pointed out that the original intent when the city was formed was to use tax money for paving the subdivision streets. "Seven years later we still haven't paved the subdivision streets," he reminded the mayor.

The mayor said budget discussions would be coming up soon and the city could take a look at its financial situation. "All is not lost," he said.

Still Raffensperger maintained he felt it was the ideal time to reduce the millage rate. "I think it was the appropriate time to offer a tax cut."

What do you think? Is it time the city reduce taxes or keep them at the current level?
Louie Louie January 14, 2014 at 07:22 PM
Raffensperger wants to get re-elected after wasting over $100,000 by voting to hire a lawyer, send a mailer and work against the mayor by investigating him.......with our money. We need to replace him next go around with someone who acts on what he/she says.
Mark E January 15, 2014 at 11:53 AM
I support the reduction of the millage rate, however I would like to see this 1 mil reduction to be converted to a bond to be used entirely for road resurfacing of subdivisions only. This way the amount of money paid by taxpayers does not change, but we are guaranteed to start the process of aggressively repaving our subdivisions. A vote on this bond would not be necessary by the citizens since the overall millage would not exceed the maximum millage rate stated in the city charter, I think this could be a win win for johns creek citizens.
Just Nasty and Mean January 16, 2014 at 09:21 AM
With the Fulton Co. LOST tax windfall and a bloated reserves fund, IT IS time to cut taxes. I do NOT support Bonds (debt) for the city, both now and forever. Bodker has some grandiose ideas for some posh city center that is NOT NEEDED. Financially, we'd be MUCH BETTER leasing space at market rates than incurring debt and maintenance costs of a city center. Get over it! Those that ran for office committed to not vote for higher taxes---well---THEY JUST DID!! Time for a tax reduction!!!
DP January 16, 2014 at 04:05 PM
With a surplus, why shouldn't the city council vote to reduce the millage rate proposed by Raffensberger and Figueroa? The country is still in a recession and people are still being foreclosed on and have reductions in pay. What does the city need more money for! To stockpile it?
Nancy Reinecke January 16, 2014 at 06:19 PM
City council members Brad Raffensperger and Ivan Figueroa are to be commended for bringing up for debate and discussion the idea of lowering the millage rate by one point from 4.614 to 3.614. The effect of this reduction on me personally would be to reduce my Johns Creek city property taxes by $109.40. Because property taxes are deductible on Schedule A of my Federal and Georgia Income Taxes, the federal and state government would take 25% + 6% of this savings in property taxes through higher income taxes and leave me with a net benefit of $75.49. To help further an informed debate, everyone should perform this calculation for his or her own situation. The reduction in the property tax millage rate will primarily benefit commercial, apartment, and high-end residential property owners. It will be less of a benefit for older and lower value residential property owners because of the effect of the homestead and senior citizen property tax exemptions. If we want to help everyone, and provide a greater benefit to those with lower incomes, then eliminating the city franchise fees on electricity, natural gas, telephone, and cable bills would be more helpful. It would be the equivalent of reducing the millage rate by one point, and because franchise fees are not tax deductible the federal and state governments would not take a percentage of the savings as they do for property tax decreases. There is no doubt that there is some padding in the city budget with some inflated expenditure estimates, and that the city has indulged in expenditures where the costs have exceeded the benefits. We do need to budget for the cash flow needs for infrastructure maintenance, however, and I for one would not mind seeing my $100 used for more parks and green space.
Lu January 17, 2014 at 09:26 AM
Thank you Nancy. That was an educated and helpful comment. It's a very complicated process, with so many variables and options at stake. To recommend that the millage rate be reduced without evaluating other options is not the best option. The Mayor and other council members simply stated that we need to evaluate the needs and resources. To comment on "Just Nasty and Mean", I think a nice City Center would go a long way for our city. Right now, we don't feel like a city, unlike many of our neighbors (Alpharetta, Duluth and Suwannee) that have City Centers. An active City Center would foster cohesiveness and support new business and revenue. I can't wait for the day that we have one and think it should be a high priority.
Just Nasty and Mean January 17, 2014 at 11:30 AM
A city center would give me the "warm and fuzzies" also. What we are talking about is the taxpayer's money! Don't give me all the "wouldn't it be nice" crapola. Show me the cost justification, payback and ROI on such an investment. Not there? Forget about it!
Lu January 17, 2014 at 05:34 PM
For you, "Just Mean and Nasty," there probably wouldn't be an ROI. But for me, my family and neighbors, I know that a City Center would be a very valuable investment for our city. There are so many weekends that we (and our wallets) spend in our neighboring City Centers enjoying concerts, arts and crafts festivals, pet shows, farmers markets, food tastings, and so much more. I realize that we do have many of these events already, but they seem sparse and uncoordinated. I would much rather stay close to home and invest in our city. And I'm certain such a place would attract quality restaurants and shops that might actually stay in business. This is very evident in Suwannee, Duluth, Alpharetta and Roswell. I would much rather stay closer to home and invest in our city. Based on your pseudonym, "Just Mean and Nasty," I would imagine that you are happy as a clam to stay home and grumble about the world around you. But for me, my family, and my neighbors, life is just too short and our city is just too cool to be without a City Center.
Bob Warren January 18, 2014 at 09:58 AM
Agree with Nancy and Lu. As much as a reduced Millage rate sounds great, consider this. It was lowered once before, and the economy went south, along with property values, which strained our city budget. We need roads paved, need a city center that we own free and clear (no leasing buildings or bond debt). That would be the catalyst for much needed commercial development. Our city is 83%+ residential, which is great, but the real tax revenue comes from the commercial tax bases, which is why all of the surrounding cities, save Milton, are able to have so many more city services, improved roads, sidewalks and additional park land than us. The work the city is doing now (roads/sidewalks/etc.) is possible because they didn't go into debt in the downturn. They now need to focus time and effort on a comprehensive city center plan like Alpharetta did, making it a public/private partnership. One example would be to take an old failed shopping center (with enough acreage) and redevelop it into the new city center. There are more than a few of those in our city. Accessibility to that city center is important, as you don't want it in one of the areas where there are severe traffic issues that make it extremely difficult to get to. A lot to consider, but lowering the millage isn't one of them. Last comment. Ivan, thank you so much for everything you have done for our city. You were there before the beginning, and not only have you served our city well, you went above and beyond, going to various ceremonies, events, and celebrations. You spent time out of your nights and weekends to be an ambassador for our city, as did others who have served along side you, and we are truly indebted to you for it. Godspeed in your future endeavors.
Just Nasty and Mean February 03, 2014 at 08:44 AM
So, run this by me one more time.... We can't have festivals, ceremonies, events, and celebrations without spending millions of taxpayer money on a city center? ..Oh please......Let's try to use some common sense, here. Is there something wrong with our parks and recreation areas we already have?
Bob Warren February 04, 2014 at 07:25 AM
Eventually, no, because the cost of running the city will be more than the tax revenue without increasing the commercial tax base via new commercial development or raising taxes or charging us to attend those events (like the State of the City address). I prefer new commercial development, if done correctly.

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