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Warner Robins discusses possible 12 percent tax hike for homeowners

Since many property values are higher this year, that means many home and business owners will pay higher bills, possibly 12 percent or more.

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — Warner Robins City Council discussed several agenda items tonight, including the possibility of a tax increase.

Tuesday night, Warner Robins City Council started work on passing this year's millage rate.

It could mean bigger tax bills for many property owners.

Council gave tentative approval to a rate of 9.98 mills for 2022.

That's the same as last year's.

But since many property values are higher this year that means many home and business owners will pay higher bills, possibly 12 percent or more.

"Because of the base, we get a lot of more people here and a lot more business here. So, property tax fluctuation, it does, it is a big difference," Coates said.

Homeowner Amijah Coates says the possibility of taxes increasing is concerning.

"I feel like if they are increasing taxes, they should increase minimum wage as well to make things more affordable in our community," Coates said.

City Clerk Mandy Stella says the exact amount would depend on how your property values changed.

"State law mandates that we have to advertise the millage rate as an increase, even if our mayor and council choose to keep our millage rate at our same mill rate," Stella said.

Back in June, the Warner Robins council approved Mayor LaRhonda Patrick's first budget of nearly $144,000,000.

Some of the highlights, the first phase of a 10 percent pay raise for city employees, and $4,000 dollar recruitment and retention bonuses for both police officers and firefighters.

Also in that budget, more than $1,000,000 in customer service improvements and $2,500,000 for technology improvements.

"Property values have increased in our county which does affect the dollar figure individuals will realize when they are paying their taxes, but that is no fault of Warner Robins. This is a decision that the tax accessor has made and the city has to accept that," Mayor Patrick said.

Mayor Patrick says if council does not approve the 2022 millage rate, as passed down from the county, it will cost the city $3,000,000.

"$3,000,000 we already budgeted for this current fiscal year. We would actually receive $3,000,000 less in tax revenues, which would mean we would have to slash some things in order to pay for operations this next fiscal year," Mayor Patrick said.

"Knowing that the city is also thinking of building a city downtown here, near the base, that is also going to make the market go crazy. It's going to go ballistic, just because of the simple fact that the houses are by the base and by downtown now, meaning those prices and that rent are going to go sky high, on top of the increase in taxes. I just encourage the public to just go out and see, because this is impacting all of us, not just some of us," Coates said.

Council can't approve that millage rate until they host three hearings.

Those are scheduled for September 8th at 2pm, September 14th at 6pm, and September 19th at 12pm.

The second reading of the millage rate ordinance will be presented to mayor and council during their September 19th council meeting.

That's when council will vote on the 2022 Warner Robins millage rate.

"We thank the county for their leadership and Chairman Stalnaker and all of the Board of Commissioners and also the tax accessor," Mayor Patrick said.

Mayor Patrick also issued a statement, saying “Over the last 20 years it has been important to past administrations as well as mine to keep the City of Warner Robins millage rate under 10 mills. A rollback to the City’s mill rate means our tax revenue essentially remains flat. Maintaining a flat revenue makes it difficult for the City of Warner Robins to continue to provide essential services at the same costs for a community that continues to grow. This is especially challenging given the current inflationary market."

She continued, saying that "our community has seen consistent growth over the past two decades. According to the U.S. Census, Warner Robins grew by 20.6 percent between 2010 and 2020. Since 2000, the population has grown by 64.5 percent. The FY23 budget did not include any assumed increases in the millage rate. Making the necessary pay-scale adjustments for City employees would not have been possible without some increase in revenue.”

Also tonight, a new announcement during that council meeting.

Mayor Patrick revealed the city's annual Christmas Parade is heading back to its previous site.

Starting in 2019, the holiday extravaganza started on Cohen Walker Drive and ended at Rigby's Water Park.

Mayor Patrick says this year's parade returns to Watson Boulevard, proceeding from Davis Drive to the Houston Health Pavilion.

One thing stays the same, it all happens on the first Saturday in December.

This year that's December 3rd.

Mayor Patrick says this year's parade them is: "Bring back Christmas."

"We voted on it tonight that we will have our Christmas Parade! We're bringing the tradition back to the city and many people seem to be really excited about that; and we have some great things planned to make the tradition even better this year. We are coming out of a pandemic and Christmas's haven't been the same to be honest with you, but we are really going to work really hard to make Christmas come back. We are going to have great decorations, music, great festivities, just to really celebrate the holiday and to close out this calendar year. So, stay tuned for different announcements from the city and different opportunities for you and your family members, especially the little ones to come out and enjoy the holiday season," Mayor Patrick said.

Mayor Patrick says they will also be hosting a Christmas Tree Lighting at 6 pm on November 17th, near Commercial Circle.

Warner Robins mayor and council's agenda had more than 20 items tonight.

Here's some more highlights from their meeting.

Council agreed to reach out to the Middle Georgia Regional Commission Wednesday to start the search for an interim city administrator.

Mayor Larhonda Patrick says she does not know who will fill the position, but her goal is to have that position filled by October 1st.

Council also approved a resolution to order 10-Flock cameras.

You may remember when we told you about the grant-funded technology.

One camera costs $6,000.

So, 'the Georgia Smart Community Digital Twin Initiative' will pay $60,000 for them.

This will allow the Warner Robins Police Department to place license plate-reading cameras around city to reduce crime.

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