Calling it a boost for public safety and a chance to stabilize the rate for a decade, the City of Fayetteville took their first official look at a proposed property tax millage rate increase at Thursday’s City Council meeting.
The plan calls for an increase in the millage rate from 3.874 mills to 5.646 mills. The increase will bring in an additional $1,811,172 tax dollars to the city and increase the General Fund budget for 2019 Fiscal Year by $1,942,480.
“The intention is a one-time increase to stabilize the millage for the next 10 years so that we don’t have to come back and go up and down,” said Mike Bush, Director of Finance. “Instead of looking at a one-year picture, we said let’s look at something where if we’re going to do this, we’re going to do this one time and we’re going to stabilize. They’re upset right now, but they’re not going to get upset next year because we’re not going to raise it again.”
The lion’s share of the increase, at $1,459,174, will go towards fire and police. It will fund needed items like police cars, car and body cameras, and vehicles and turnout gear for the fire department. It will allow for the addition of 12 new firefighters and 5 new police officers.
Funds will also go towards seed money for the new city hall project, a pay and classification study, future cost of living increases, and parks and recreating funding among other uses.
According to Bush, in real numbers the net affect of a resident’s overall tax bill would be an increase of six percent, if the millages rates set by the Board of Education and Fayette County stay the same. The Board of Education has announced they will increase the rate, meaning that six percent will change.
A home with a fair market value of $250,000 would see an increase of $177.20, or $14.77 a month. A non-homestead property with a fair market value of $400,000 would be increased $283.52, or $23.63 a month.
Opening the floor for public comment brought a critique relating to the city’s opposition to consolidating their fire department with the county in spring 2014. Joe Scarborough, who is a resident of Fayetteville and also the county’s Director of the Department of Building Safety, said that had Fayetteville agreed with the consolidation, there would be no need to raises taxes now for 12 new firefighters and additional equipment.
“I don’t like bad decisions that affect me and my family and my pocket book,” he said. “A couple hundred dollars may not be a lot to a financial analyst, but we’re real people out here, we’re a real community, and it’s real dollars to us.
“You’re affecting all of our lives when you didn’t have to,” he said. “That’s what makes me so frustrated. I think when you take money from somebody that’s unwilling to give it up, it’s called extortion. I don’t want my dollars to fund this program because it’s misdirected.”
Councilman Rich Hoffman countered that an increase was a long time coming and likened previous council’s refusal to raise taxes to a person buying a house and then refusing to maintain it.
“I don’t like to spend money foolishly, but I really feel like it’s necessary and it should have been done previously,” he said.
The next two public hearings on the millage rate are set for Thursday, August 9 at 7 p.m. and Thursday, August 16 at 5:45 p.m., both at Fayetteville City Hall. City Council is expected to approve the increase at the Aug. 16 meeting.