Johns Creek Council mulls 1 mill tax cut

Raffensperger urges reduction made up with windfall sales tax

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JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – City Councilmen Brad Raffensperger and Ivan Figueroa started the new year with a call to reduce the city millage rate by 1 mill. Fellow councilmembers said they were willing to study the proposal, but wanted to see what effect such a move would have on the city’s budget.

Raffensperger cited the $1.85 million windfall the city will experience beginning in 2014 from additional sales tax monies it will receive based on 2010 Census numbers.

“I believe it is time to reduce the millage rate. The reserve fund is flush, and we have $1.85 million [additional] funds for the next 10 years,” Raffensperger said. “A 1 mill reduction would be huge for property owners. It would mean a lot to those who are still hurting.”

He said it would also give the newly funded public-private partnership for economic development, Johns Creek Advantage, a “shot in the arm” in recruiting new businesses to the city and an added incentive to retaining existing businesses here in the city.

Raffensperger pointed to a 49 percent vacancy in Technology Park.

“We don’t need the money,” he said.

Figueroa seconded the motion to reduce the millage. But other members of council said such a move would be rash without examining the effect it would have on the budget.

No one on council, including Raffensperger, could say what the value of 1 mill is, but it turns out to be $3.6 million, nearly double the “windfall” tax revenue. That means finding $1.75 million to cut in the budget even with the increased sales tax dollars.

“We’re trading double the amount we’re getting back,” said Mayor Mike Bodker. “We have bigger concerns. People do want roads repaired. I was thinking we could use this $1.85 million to work on the $40 million shortfall we have in bringing our roads up to standards.”

The rollback on the millage would mean cuts in the budget that could have the effect of slowing down the repaving plan for subdivisions. Even if the city voted for revenue bonds to hasten the paving, the city would still have to pay the debt service.

Figueroa said as a councilman, he had always “been about infrastructure.”

“It rolls out a beautiful red carpet for a unique place. And it sends a good message that Johns Creek is moving forward. Getting these roads paved was one of the reasons for cityhood,” Figueroa said.

Figueroa said he wants to do both, roll back the millage rate and do additional road work.

Bodker said such a policy would have to delay road work, and the longer the delays, the more quickly streets deteriorate.

“In the long run, it will cost us much more to get the work done,” Bodker said.

Raffensperger wanted the rollback now.

“If not now, when? There will always be another project,” Raffensperger said. “I’m sure we could do a little belt-tightening.”

Councilwoman Kelly Stewart said the matter needed more study.

“This seems hurried to me,” she said.

Councilman Lenny Zaprowski agreed.

“I will have to go through the numbers and see the impact on the budget. I need to see more on this,” he said.

The motion failed 4-2 with Raffensperger and Figueroa in the minority.