The Ball Ground City Council approved small increase to the city’s tax millage rates this week.
Due to the issues created by the novel coronavirus pandemic, the city acknowledged it was in a unique position and was in need to build up a financial contingency because of the uncertainty of things moving forward.
“Personally, I don’t like paying more taxes, but everyone on this council and the officials here, we’re going to be paying more like everybody else,” Mayor Rick Roberts said.
The suggested change would raise the city’s rate to an even 5 mills, an approximate increase of 13%. At an earlier meeting, City Manager Eric Wilmarth said that this rate would result in an annual tax increase of $46 on a house valued at $200,000. While Roberts said he believed this was a necessary measure for this year, he also felt there was the possibility the city could roll this rate back next year, depending on the situation.
Although the council concurred with Roberts, Councilwoman Andrenia Stoner reiterated her concern of the effects this rate increase could have on elderly city residents and those on fixed incomes and wondered if there was something the city could do that would help them in this regard.
“That’s certainly something we can look at. There are some cities that have a rollback for people that are elderly and on fixed income,” Roberts said.
Following the discussion, the council voted to adopt the increase in millage rate.
Among the other changes to the city’s laws and financial matters approved at the meeting included the second reading of the change for package alcohol sales, the new sign ordinance, the building code regulations put forth by the county and the Cherokee County animal ordinance. With these items having their second reading officially approved, restaurants within the city limits will be able to sell unopened bottles of beer and wine with to-go orders while businesses and other entities will be limited as to where and when they can place signs on public rights-of-way. The only major point of discussion that came up during the meeting regarding these items was that the city wanted to clear up something in the sign law. While entities placing signs cannot install their signs on a residential area’s right-of-way that is maintained by a private owner, the property owner is allowed to place signs in his or her own yard when signs are allowed to be displayed.
The Ball Ground City Council also handled the following items:
♦ A pair of resolutions, both involving loans from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority, were approved. It was explained to the council that both loans are sitting dormant at the time due to COVID-19 related freezes, but will pick up again in January 2021.
♦ The council approved adopting both the county’s fire tax for the upcoming fiscal year and a fee schedule for alcohol licensing, water and sewer consumption and other utility items.
♦ During his portion of the meeting, Wilmarth announced that all music events for the rest of the 2020 season had been canceled. He also explained that the city closed the month of June with $621,000 in its general fund account and $103,000 in its SPLOST account. Paving projects on Chestnut Street, Dixie Lane and Billy Lane had been completed, while work was being taken on to repair a hole on Beck Street south of city hall. He also said more than 150 comments had been received from the public regarding input on the proposed Georgia Highway 372 Truck Route. Lastly, although the Ball Ground Police Department may not be large enough to earn certification or accreditation fairly easily, the city is looking into a program from the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police that would work much like the traditional certification program.
♦ Roberts said he was going to try and get the city’s historic preservation committee back together in the hopes of getting something put together for preserving and maintaining historic city buildings by the end of the year.
♦ Councilman Lee Prettyman mentioned that the city has a law in place that keeps city employees from bidding on surplus items, stating he would like to see that ordinance rescinded when it came to surplus property. The city’s legal counsel said it would be wise to evaluate this matter very carefully before moving forward, and it was announced this would be discussed at the council’s August meeting.
The next meeting of the Ball Ground City Council will be at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 13.