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Safety, millage rate rollback highlight Macon-Bibb County's proposed 2024 budget

Mayor Lester Miller says they're able to provide more public services while charging homeowners less, thanks to the OLOST.

MACON, Ga. — Macon-Bibb homeowners may soon have a little extra money if Mayor Lester Miller's budget proposal goes according to plan.

The mayor announced his budget proposal Tuesday evening. The millage rate and public safety dominated the presentation.

Miller plans to roll back the millage rate by five mills. The rate is $1 per every $1,000 of your property's value, up to 40%. It's used to calculate property taxes.

The rollback means as long as your property value stays the same when assessments come out, you should pay less this year. Folks with a $100,000 house would pay about $200 less. A $150,000 house would have the property owner paying $300 less.

Much of the rollback is from the OLOST, the penny sales tax Bibb voters approved in 2021. Miller says they were legally required to roll the rate back by five mills this year, but when they rolled it back two mills last year, it put them ahead.

"We're providing a better quality of service, and more of it, for less money for the taxpayer, and I think that's something we can all take away. Our top items continue to be the top items. We're funding public safety," Miller said.

About $87 million of the nearly $204 million budget would go to public safety in 2024. They've increased that budget nearly $12 million since Miller took office.

This year, the pedestrian safety budget includes $1.8 million for incentives to keep longtime employees working in Macon-Bibb. Miller says he wants to avoid turnover, and keep people safer. The public safety budget also includes continued upgrades to the fire department. 

Miller cited the new fire training center that opened earlier this year. He also discussed continued improvements to the county's emergency management agency.

Miller says they're also making strides in other areas of the budget, like economic development.

"Economic development, we increased about $2 million over the last three years. Because we realize the more money we can invest in creating good jobs,  and bringing good, quality companies in for our community and funding good initiatives like that, it's going to grow the tax base. It's going to grow people. It's going to grow opportunities," Miller said.

This year, he again budgeted $500,000 for pedestrians safety efforts in the county. In his 2023 budget, Miller initially proposed $100,000, but raised it to $500,000 to better fund programs like the Pedestrian Safety Review Board.

Miller believes some initiatives already paid for, like a security system downtown, will also help keep pedestrians safe.

Commissioners did not vote on the budget Tuesday. Instead, they'll have a public hearing June 6, and a vote June 20.

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