Last October, on the eve of a City election, I wrote how changes over the past decade in Snellville had impacted me personally. My cost to live in Snellville had declined 42% while services had improved. [http://brettharrell.blogspot.com/2007/10/cost-of-city-life.html]
Today, after agreeing to adopt an increased millage rate and on the eve of the City's adoption of a new budget and stormwater utility fee, I reflect again on the tremendous improvements over the past decade as well as the negative trend over the past year. The numbers below are real, they are the actual taxes and fees I personally pay to live in the City of Snellville.
A decade of accomplishment
Beginning with 1998, as my baseline, and comparing those costs and values to 2008, my home in Snellville has increased in appraised value by 48% while my property taxes paid to the City, including the 1/2 mil increase proposed for 2008, have decreased by 5%. The tax millage rate over that time is down by 31%, again, including the proposed increase in 2008.
In 1998, I paid an additional $148 fee for trash collection - that fee was eliminated fully in 2001. The new stormwater utility fee, as proposed, will add $94.50 per year to my cost of living in Snellville. So, over the decade, fees have been reduced from $148 to $94.50 - a 36% reduction.
Including the 2008 millage rate increase and new stormwater fees, my after tax cost of living in Snellville remains 13% less than in 1998 while my home is valued at 48% more. Great job Mayor, Council, and City of Snellville!
A disturbing trend more recently
Let's hope the cliche "all good things must come to an end" isn't true for Snellville, however, recent decisions have me increasingly concerned.
Beginning in 2005, the Council returned to the age old practice of fixing the millage rate and holding it constant, year after year, without regard for actual need for adjustment - up or down. While politically expedient, it isn't the best way to govern a City. [By adjusting the millage rate annually, in support of an adopted City plan, large swings may be minimized.]
With the proposed 1/2 mil tax increase in 2008, the millage rate is increasing 14% in a single year while my home's reappraisal is up only 13%. Taxes rising faster than values is never a good sign most especially in the current economic environment.
Add to the rising tax rate, the imposition of a new stormwater utility fee and my cost of living in Snellville will increase by 50% in 2008 versus 2007. By addressing stormwater via a fee system rather than including the cost in the property tax digest, my after tax cost of living in Snellville is increasing even more - up 58%. On an after tax basis, I paid $332.81 to live in Snellville in 2007, I'll pay $525.84 for the same pleasure in 2008. [By including the stormwater fee in the tax digest and increasing the millage rate further, most would actually pay less on an after tax basis.]
Before you recall the tremendous improvements in Snellville - new City Hall, Senior Center, Recycling Center, additional Police Officers, pay increases, etc. - and suggest the reason for tax increases, know that the proposed budget has no new hires, below inflation employee raises, and benefits tremendously from SPLOST capital investments not available at the beginning of the decade.
Any way you cut it, it's been a great decade, but it appears the party's over - unless . . . our new City Manager, Dr. Treadway, gets the party started again!