The Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) Mayor’s Recommended Budget for July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020 for the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government (ACCGOV) has been submitted to the Commission for review. This budget is balanced, maintaining current services and includes a General Fund Operating and Capital Budget that totals $136.2 million for FY20, which is $1.9 million or 1.4% above the FY19 level.
The FY20 Mayor’s Recommended Budget proposes a millage rate of 13.95 for property tax year 2019, which is the same level as FY19. Each mill of this rate produces $1 of taxes for every $1,000 of assessed property value as determined by the Tax Assessor's Office.
Strategic Commitments and Goals agreed to by the Mayor and Commission at their most recent annual retreat helped to guide the development of the FY20 Mayor's Recommended Budget. Some of the major items included in this budget are:
- $170,000 in the Manager’s Office to establish a new Inclusion Office with one full-time position.
- $150,000 to create a Workforce Investment Program in Economic Development that will partner with other agencies to create a training curriculum for targeted individuals that will help them gain employment.
- $150,000 to begin an offender incentive program to begin to support state inmates as they perform labor on behalf of ACCGOV.
- $100,100 in the Police Department to continue the Mental Health Co-Responder unit that had been grant funded and to add an additional team.
- $70,000 to pilot an expansion of the Police Department's take home vehicle program.
- $100,000 for the third year of the Youth Build pilot program.
- $94,000 in General Fund support for the Transit fund to provide fare-free service to senior and disabled passengers and to offer fare-free service to employees of ACCGOV.
- Several initiatives for the Board of Elections, including $91,000 to increase the hourly pay rate for poll workers; $40,000 to unmerge some polling precincts by adding polling locations and early voting days; and conversion of a part-time position to a full-time Elections Coordinator ($14,600).
- $70,000 across funds to create a community renewable energy plan.
- Addition of a Housing Coordinator position to support increased creation of affordable housing throughout Athens.
- Support for criminal justice system enhancements, including for creation of a system-wide data dashboard and a Municipal Court notification system.
- $30,000 to partner with local agencies to increase outreach efforts to the homeless population.
- $54,000 for an additional Communications Officer to facilitate more rapid emergency services response.
- Funding for the resumption of the Performance Management Program (PMP) to attract, retain, and reward talented employees. Across all funds, the PMP funding is approximately $1.8 million ($1.3 million in the General Fund), which is equivalent to 2% of pay and related benefits.
- Funding for retiree health Insurance and life insurance (Other Post-Employment Benefits – OPEB) increases to almost $6 million per year, a $1.3 million increase ($1.0 from the General Fund) over the FY19 Budget in order to maintain current benefits. This increase is based on a growing number of retirees compared to this time last year, current trends in claims expenses, and an increase in the monthly Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) contribution for some retirees 65 and older.
- For the first time in 20 years, the General Fund Budget does not plan the use of fund balance in the General Fund for either operating or capital expenses.
- Across all funds, the recommended budget will add nine new full-time positions and convert several existing part-time positions to seven full-time positions, increasing the total number of authorized positions to 1,689. At this level, the Unified Government’s ratio of full-time positions to community population remains below 14 per 1,000 citizens.
As the Tax Assessor's Office updates the estimated market value of taxable property - called the tax digest - Georgia law requires local governments to calculate a "rollback" millage rate. The FY20 rollback millage rate is calculated as the millage rate needed to produce the same total revenue on the 2019 tax digest that the FY19 millage rate would have produced had no reassessments or inflationary increases occurred to property such as land, buildings, and improvements.
The recommended 13.95 millage rate for 2019 would increase estimated property tax revenues by 7.2% over the rollback millage rate. This increase in revenue over the rollback millage rate is due to inflationary growth or reassessment growth in the market value of existing real property.
This does not mean all property owners will see a 7.2% increase in their property taxes. Individual taxes are based on the current assessed value of real property that may remain the same, increase, or decrease depending on the market value of each parcel of property.
Without this tentative property tax revenue increase, the FY20 millage rate would be no more than 13.013 mills. The proposed tax increase for a home with a fair market value of $200,000 is approximately $65.59 and the proposed tax increase for non-homestead property with a fair market value of $250,000 is approximately $93.70.
Based on maintaining the current millage rate of 13.95, a homeowner of an average-priced home will continue to pay similar or lower property taxes than many neighboring and similar-sized communities in Georgia. A report comparing tax mills, taxes, and exemptions for Athens-Clarke County and both local and comparably-sized communities is available on the website at www.accgov.com/budget.
The Athens-Clarke County Commission is scheduled to adopt the FY20 Budget at their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, June 4, 2019 at 6:00 p.m. in the Commission Chamber on the second floor of City Hall, 301 College Avenue.
Before the Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission finalizes the FY20 Budget and sets the 2019 millage rate, Georgia law requires three public hearings to allow the public an opportunity to express their opinions on the increase. In addition to these three required public hearings, the Athens-Clarke County Commission is scheduled to review the FY20 Mayor’s Recommended Budget at a series of meetings.
These budget-related meetings will take place:
- Monday, May 6 at 5:30 p.m. in the 120 West Dougherty Street Governmental Building Auditorium (Mayor & Commission budget review - no public comment)
- Wednesday, May 8 at 5:30 p.m. in the 120 West Dougherty Street Governmental Building Auditorium (Taxpayer's Bill of Rights public hearing #1 at 5:30 p.m. followed by Mayor & Commission budget review)
- Monday, May 13 at 5:30 p.m. in the 120 West Dougherty Street Governmental Building Auditorium (Mayor & Commission budget review, if needed - no public comment)
- Tuesday, May 21 at 6:00 p.m. in the City Hall Commission Chamber at 301 College Avenue (Taxpayer's Bill of Rights #2 and FY20 Budget public hearings followed by the Mayor & Commission Agenda Setting Session)
- Tuesday, June 4 at 6:00 p.m. in the City Hall Commission Chamber at 301 College Avenue (Taxpayer's Bill of Rights public hearing #3 followed by the Mayor & Commission Regular Voting Meeting to adopt FY20 Budget and 2019 millage rate)
The FY20 Mayor’s Recommended Budget will be available beginning on Tuesday, April 30, 2019 and can be reviewed on Athens-Clarke County’s Web site at www.accgov.com/budget.
Copies of the FY20 Mayor's Recommended Budget will also available beginning on Tuesday, April 30, 2019 for public inspection during normal office hours at the following locations:
- the Clerk of Commission’s Office in City Hall, 301 College Avenue, in Suite 204;
- the Manager's Office in City Hall, 301 College Avenue, in Suite 303; and
- the Athens-Clarke County Library at 2025 Baxter Street.
A budget summary section is available as part of the overall budget document.