Lee millage rate static

LEESBURG, Ga. -- Lee County taxpayers will see no millage rate increase in 2012 despite a tax digest projected to show only one one-hundredth of a percent of growth this year.

In an abbreviated called meeting Thursday, the Lee County Commission left the county's millage rate unchanged at 28.416 mills. That was despite a tax digest that is set at $11,114,904, only $1,036 more than in 2010. The 2010 digest, in turn, saw a decrease of $82,422 from 2009.

"Lee County can be thankful for new growth in real property like the Publix at Forrester Parkway," Chief County Appraiser Joe Wright said. "That offset a large increase in exemptions (a jump of $5,146,654).

"The economy has certainly had a negative impact on our digest, but Lee County came out a lot better than some larger metro areas in the state. There's still a housing market here."

The two-year dip in the digest has left Lee officials with much less money to work into their yearly budget.

"The net increase in taxes collected in the county -- based on the digest -- was $353,501 in 2006, $451,346 in 2007, $503,174 in 2008 and $512,077 in 2009," Lee County Commission Chairman Ed Duffy said. "It was down more than $82,000 last year and is up only a thousand dollars this year.

"Looking at those numbers, it amazes me that this commission has not raised taxes in five years, has not furloughed any of its employees, has increased employees' salaries 19 percent and has increased the sheriff's department's budget by more than $1 million. To me, that is the definition of doing more with less."

In addition to the significant real property increase ($5,525,311), personal property saw a $1,159,989 decrease; motor vehicles declined by $2,914,640; mobile home values fell by $181,259; timber values increased by $1,206,210, and heavy duty equipment went down $13,704.

The county's gross digest for 2012 is valued at $960,892,690, while its adjusted net digest is $870,664,850.

"(Setting the millage rate) is one of the requirements of this body," County Administrator Tony Massey said. "The tax rate is set on revenue projections prepared by the tax appraiser's office."

Commissioners Duffy, Betty Johnson and Bill Williams were on hand at the meeting to approve the digest.