Asked and Answered: Explaining your property tax bill

Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 4:13 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - How much could you end up paying in property taxes?

It’s a question that is top of mind for many property owners with a looming deadline for local governments.

Many local governments, including the City of Savannah, are considering the same millage rate for the next budget year. But will keeping the same rate mean an increase in property tax revenue?

The answer is yes, it is expected to increase tax revenue for the city. The reason has to do with two factors: the millage rate and property values.

Estimates from the Chatham County Board of Assessors Office show overall property values in Savannah are up by almost 7 percent from last year. The increased values mean the city will collect more property tax revenue if it keeps the current millage rate.

Another option being considered is the rollback rate. The rollback rate would keep overall property tax revenues the same as last year which is why it’s called the rollback rate.

Here’s where it gets personal. Take a look at your assessed property value for this year. You should have received a notice in the mail back in June. Your value is another factor in how much taxes you’ll pay.

Take for example a home in Savannah valued at $250,000. In 2020 - the millage rate was 12.739. The homestead tax bill come out to $1,248.42.

But this year, the appraised value went up by 7 percent. So your home is now valued at $267,500

If the city adopts the rollback rate, you’re still looking at more in taxes - $1,302.11, about $54 dollars more than last year..

But if the city decides to keep the current millage rate, you’re looking at even more in taxes - $1,337.60, about $89 dollars more than last year.

What does the City of Savannah plan to do with the additional tax dollars?

Chief Budget Officer Melissa Carter explained it will help offset an estimated budget shortfall related to the pandemic.

“We’re going to hopefully fill that gap. Instead of drawing from our real estate reserve the $11 million that we plan to draw. This may and again and again it is still yet to be seen where our operating cost end up as we resume normal operations. It may allow us to reduce that $11 million draw to potentially $2 million,” said Carter.

The City’s budget proposal for next fiscal year won’t be released until later this year after the millage rate is adopted. The reason is the city follows a calendar fiscal year, adopting its 2022 budget in December.

Savannah’s budget director did say the council will receive a budget preview in September. By then, the city should have a better idea where it stands on closing the budget gap.

Two public comment hearings are being held next Thursday at City Hall for the proposed millage rates. One at 4 p.m. and another at 6:30 p.m. Then next month, one will be held August 12 at 2 p.m.

It’s a chance to make your voice heard about the proposal. A quick note, this is for the city not the county.

Chatham County has notified residents about its proposal for a revenue increase by adopting the current millage rate of 11.543. It’s also considering a rollback rate of 11.327 mills for general maintenance and operations. The same applies to the special service district. The current rate is 4.801 mills and the rollback rate being considered is 4.753. Also - the tax rates are being considered for Chatham Area Transit - a current rate of 1.15 mills and a rollback rate of 1.131 mills.

A public hearing about all of those rates is set for 9:30 a.m. Friday morning at the Commission Meeting Room on the second floor of the Old Courthouse at 124 Bull Street.

And the Savannah-Chatham County School Board voted last month to keep its millage rate the same. Some of the additional $2 million in tax revenue will go toward worker compensation, according to a budget presentation.

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