The county millage rate — by the numbers
• 11.18: Liberty County’s millage rate for Hinesville residents
• 12.58: Liberty County’s millage rate for unincorporated areas and smaller cities
• 15.88: the board of education’s millage rate
• 3.25: the hospital authority’s millage rate
• 2: the number of mills that go to fund the Liberty County Development Authority
• 1.5: the number of mills designated for the state of Georgia
• 33.86: combined millage rate for taxpayers in rural areas and small cities
• 32.46: combined millage rate for Hinesville residents
Residents and business owners whose properties were not reassessed in 2013 will not see a tax increase, county officials said Tuesday evening at a third and final millage-rate hearing. The county held a second, sparsely attended millage rate hearing at noon Tuesday.
The Liberty County Commission approved three resolutions setting millage rates for residents in the unincorporated areas of the county, residents who live in Hinesville and those who live in the county’s other cities. The county is required by state law to roll back its millage rate for Hinesville residents to avoid double-taxing them for services they receive from the city, according to county officials. Hinesville residents will pay 11.18 mills in county taxes, while those living in the unincorporated county and smaller cities will pay 12.58.
The commission unanimously approved a combined millage rate of 33.86 for rural taxpayers and those in the small cities and 32.46 for Hinesville residents. The combined rates include the county’s millage rates, the board of education’s 15.88 millage rate, the hospital authority’s 3.25 millage rate, the Liberty County Development Authority’s 2 mills and the 1.5 mills for the state of Georgia.
Although the county did not raise the millage rate this year, state law required the proposed rate to be advertised as an increase because of growth in the tax digest, explained Liberty County Finance Director Kim McGlothlin.
Tax Commissioner Virgil Jones, who was present at the hearing, confirmed he would take the signed resolutions with him when he met state revenue officials Wednesday in Atlanta. Jones said once the state approves the tax digest and millage rates, he expects tax bills to go out to taxpayers Dec. 11 “at the earliest.”
Commissioners also approved a $100,000 allocation of SPLOST funds for the Central Avenue realignment project to help the city of Hinesville fill a $280,151.48 funding shortfall. District 5 Commissioner Gary Gilliard opposed the allocation.
Hinesville City Manager Billy Edwards approached the commission with the funding request. Edwards presented figures that estimate the total project cost at more than $1.4 million. The city received a federal transportation-enhancement grant of $250,000, a Georgia Department of Transportation grant of $350,000, a $156,547.42 allocation from the 2013 local maintenance and improvement grant, and city SPLOST funds of $391,424.88 for the project, he said.
The Central Avenue realignment is the last phase of the Memorial Drive realignment project, and it’s essential to Armstrong Atlantic State University’s plans to build a new, expanded campus in downtown Hinesville. A new Hinesville public library also will be built in the enhanced Memorial Drive area. Armstrong currently has its Liberty campus in suite 210 at 740 E. Gen. Stewart Way.
In other county business:
• The commission voted to adopt a minority/woman business-enterprise policy to ensure minority and women-owned and operated businesses receive equal opportunity in regards to the county’s procurement and contracting activities.
• Commissioners approved an amended board attendance policy for locally created boards. The policy was amended to provide the commission more flexibility in excusing board members’ absences from board meetings, County Attorney Kelly Davis said. The amended policy also touches on the board-appointment process if there is a board vacancy.
• The commission tabled a rezoning request made by the Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission to rezone the properties in Magnolia Place subdivision from mobile home park residential (R-4) to single-family, two-family and mobile home residential (R2-A). District 1 Commissioner Marion Stevens Sr. motioned that the request be tabled for 60 days to allow him time to speak to residents and LCPC officials about the proposed rezoning. LCPC zoning analyst Joey Patenaude said the request was made to bring the subdivision into conformance with current land use. Rezoning the subdivision also would allow one of the residents to acquire a home-based business license so he can locate an office in his home, as long as he operates his pressure-washing business off site, Patenaude said.
• Commissioners approved the ban-the-box initiative, a campaign that is designed to prevent discrimination against job applicants who have a criminal history. Commissioners Pat Bowen and Eddie Walden opposed the initiative. Davis said background checks still would be conducted, just later in the hiring process.
• The commission also adopted a draft water ordinance and fee schedule as presented by the county attorney. Last month, commissioners adopted a resolution to issue a $1.04 million revenue bond for the construction of a rural water system in the Holmestown-Screven Fork area. Davis informed the commission that the bond was validated in superior court and, therefore, the project appears to be on track. The county received $500,000 in Community Block Development Grants last year for water and sewer improvements, in addition to a $3.2 million grant from U.S. Department of Agriculture and the $1 million low-interest loan. County officials have been pressing for the rural water system for nearly 10 years, following a University of Georgia study that found wells in the area contained unsafe drinking water. Stevens and Gilliard recused themselves from the vote because they might live in the project’s service area, own land there or have relatives where the water system is to be constructed.
• Commissioners voted to begin a formal process to close Davidson Plantation Road, a county-maintained road. Commissioner Connie Thrift said she had received multiple complaints about the road. Walden opposed taking measures toward road closure, stating it would limit ingress and egress for some residents.