Consultants recommend millage rate increase for Dougherty County

Financial advisor Ed Wall of Pier Jaffray & Co. and consultant Morris E. Williams III of MEW Consulting spoke with commissioners Monday. / Mary Green

Last week, Dougherty County commissioners learned they are preparing for a budget deficit in the upcoming fiscal year while the county's general fund reserves are running out of money.

Now commissioners have a new option on the table for how to deal with this problem, and that's a tax raise.

Consultant Morris E. Williams III of MEW Consulting and financial advisor Ed Wall of Pier Jaffray & Co. presented different options to commissioners for their budget problems Monday.

Their recommendation is a millage rate increase of four mills, which would then increase property taxes.

Two mills would equal $3.9 million and cover the deficit that Wall projects Dougherty County will run this year, which is about $3.5 million.

One mill would put about $1.9 million back in the fund balance, while the final mill would cover employee pay raises.

While this was not the only option discussed, Williams said this is the only one that is sustainable for Dougherty County and its fiscal future.

"You hate to balance the budget on the back of the employees, and you also hate to balance the budget on the back of the citizens, but there's got to be a combination of the two," Williams said. "In order to make Dougherty County a place for employees to want to work, they're doing to need a pay raise, in my opinion, and in order to give the citizens the services they need, they need more revenue."

Williams said Dougherty County has been fiscally conservative in the past, so there is not much room to cut from the budget.

Wall added that most Georgia cities and counties have had significant millage rate increases at some point following the Great Recession, but Dougherty County has not up to this point.

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