BOCC votes to raise Gadsden property tax rate

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By Robert Allen

When do higher taxes cost less?
According to talk at the July 15 meeting of The Gadsden Commission, county taxpayers with property that has dropped in value might still pay less even though the 2014-15 millage rate used to calculate property tax will be higher than the 2013-14 rate.
Millage rates represent tenths of pennies, a decimal then multiplied by the total taxable property value.
Commission Chairman Eric Hinson proposed a 9.1443 rate, arguing that the county had a responsibility to stay out of the red and meet budget.
Commissioner Doug Croley, however, spoke in favor of an 8.9064 rate, reasoning the county needs to maintain as inviting a business climate as possible in order to attract commercial development from other counties — specifically businesses the commissioner said Leon County is driving out.
Hinson said the rate could always be lowered later.  He asked Jeff Price, senior management and budget analyst, to speak before the board regarding the practical results of the 9.1443 rate.
“I want to make sure you all know what’s going on,” said Hinson.
According to Price, with the higher rate, an easy majority of Gadsden County residents would still pay the same amount, or even less, in property taxes because of declined property values. True, they would pay a higher percentage of their property’s value — but in many cases that percentage would be applied to a smaller total taxable figure.
Croley still opposed the higher rate.
“We are next door to an urban county,” said Croley. “We have businesses that are interested in moving over to Gadsden County. One of our most competitive advantages is we have a very favorable tax structure for them to come to.”
Croley said the lower millage rate is one way to encourage the creation of jobs the commissioners often speak about — specifically citing the positive results a lower millage rate might have on Hinson’s district 1.
Commissioner Brenda Holt motioned to adopt the 9.1443 rate. Taylor seconded the motion. It passed, 3-1, with Croley opposing.
Commissioners also considered what to do with health department dental.
Max Martinez, interim administrator with the Gadsden County Health Department, appeared before the board to discuss the possible sale of the department’s dental equipment.
Martinez said after the county’s dental clinic did not materialize as planned within a year, the department could recoup some of its costs by selling the surplus equipment.
According to Martinez, he had letters in hand from two interested local buyers.  
Initially Brenda Holt motioned to label the equipment as surplus and approve the possible sale. Croley seconded this motion.  
Croley said he understood the situation as a way for the Department of Health to secure funds that could then be allocated to other county health issues — while still keeping the dental equipment and services in the county.
Martinez said that was correct.
Commissioner Sherrie Taylor, however, said she objected to the timing of the possible deal. She said the existing public program should be allowed more time to succeed.
“What you’re doing now is not fair,” said Taylor to Martinez. It is not fair, and it’s not ethical. Let’s do what we need to do to help this program move just a little bit further on down the road.”   
The method of transaction was also discussed.
Holt acknowledged an open bid process for the sale of the dental equipment would be in keeping with protocol — but would also allow the possibility of selling the equipment to an out-of-county entity, which may result in local people no longer having access to the dental technology.
With this in mind, Holt seemed to reason herself out of the idea — and she withdrew her motion to approve the sale.
Taylor then motioned to table the topic until more information is available. Croley seconded this motion. It passed unanimously.