The Monroe County Board of Education’s proposed tax increase for 2023 is the first increase for the schools in seven years. Since levying a rate of 15.8 mills in 2016, the board has reduced its millage rate each year since, accumulating a reduction in millage of nearly 8-tenths of a mill.
The proposed millage rate of 16.212 (an increase of 1.18 mills) comes as property values associated with Georgia Power’s Plant Scherer are dropping.
While some taxpayers will see an increase in tax bills in 2023 due to the millage and reassessed values of property, approximately 7,600 homeowners in Monroe County will see a tax bill reduction thanks to Governor Brian Kemp’s Property Tax Relief Grant. Those taxpayers who have a homestead exemption on their primary residence will realize a credit of $18,000 against their assessed tax value.
For a house valued at $200,000 (the average homestead value in Monroe County for the 2022 tax year), a full tax bill at last year’s school millage of 15.024 would be $ 1,197.36. After applying the tax credit of $18,000, the same tax bill at the proposed higher millage rate of 16.212 would be $1,005.14 – $192.22 less in overall taxes.
Plant Scherer, Georgia Power’s coal-fired power plant located in Juliette, GA, has traditionally accounted for a substantial portion of the county tax digest. But two of the primary owners of Plant Scherer have or are in the process of closing down power production, causing the Georgia Department of Revenue to decrease the property values of the plant.
In 2022, Florida Power & Light, which owned a majority of Plant Scherer’s unit 4 and a 25% of unit 3, filed closure plans with the Department of Revenue, prompting a $223 million reduction in assessed (40%) property tax value. This resulted in a revenue loss for Monroe County Schools of $3.3 million – a change which school officials learned about four months into its FY 23 budget year.
In reviewing the 2023 digest – upon which the FY 24 budget is based – the school board is seeking to cover that revenue deficit. Student growth and resulting increases in state funding, along with $1 million in CARES (federal covid stimulus) funds, reduce the deficit to $1.8 million. The increase in millage from 15.024 mills to 16.212 mills will cover that $1.8 million gap between expense and revenue. And with student enrollment continuing to grow, the state is expected to provide additional funding in its 2024 supplemental budget (called a midterm adjustment).
However, Monroe County’s property digest – which saw substantial growth in residential, commercial, industrial and other property areas – is expected to see another drop in utility values later this year when the Department of Revenue sets assessment values for the public utilities. Jacksonville Electric Authority – which owns just under 24% of Scherer’s unit 4 – sought to reduce its tax values last year, an effort which the DOR rolled to the 2023 digest. With that change, an additional $120 million in utility assessment values could drop from the digest, resulting in another $1.8 million revenue loss for Monroe County Schools.
Monroe County Schools continues to be a top-ten district in Middle Georgia and strives to maintain that status of academic excellence. Full funding of its budget is vital for the system to continue to provide only the best instructional support for the 4,500 students in the community.