The City of Covington, GA, unbeknownst to most citizens, saw its biggest property tax increase in over a decade as total ad valorem revenue for the city increased by almost $400,000 for a whopping 8% increase - an 8% increase in property taxation. Now, the city government will tell you that there was NO increase, that the millage rate remained the same at 7.654 mills; however, this is an intellectually dishonest notion, readers, as the bottom line is the amount levied in the most recent fiscal year was approx $5.2 million vs. the previous sum of $4.8 million . It's the old "shell game," in which the tax increase occurs with the increased valuation of the tax base & most everyone, but & seemingly arbitrarily, not everyone, pays higher taxes & the government definitely brings in more revenue.
So there's that to start.
Let's get into the actual numbers from the city's audited Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.
On page 9 of the report we see that the big numbers for revenues & expenditures. Naturally, for government activities, the biggest source of income is through taxes, of all kinds & stripes (city's share of sales tax, transfer tax, etc.), and that amount set a record - $10,150,920. That's a lot of money & represented a 7% increase over the previous year.
But perhaps no other part of the report was as concerning as this:
"General government" expenses went from approx $3.7 million last year to $4.35 million this year, representing an 18% increase in the cost of government for Covington in 2018!
The City of Covington actually ran an $11.5 million deficit last year with the annual deficit growing an alarming 25% over FY 2017's number.
Fortunately for us taxpayers, the city didn't have to increase taxes or take on new debt to be able to make up that shortfall as approx $10 million was able to be transferred from the city's utilities to make up a large percentage. However, the city did end up in the red this past year, to the tune of $1,555,521.
But that begs the question of this: what happens when Votgle goes online? Our utilities, and also most likely our property taxes, will be SKYROCKETING very soon, people. Now is the time to have a REAL & honest dialogue about some major issues & needed decisions.
So let's hit the pause button right there. Look for a 2nd report here in this space next week & for those who are interested - TPC's next print edition will have additional, print-only content that will hit newsstands by 10AM Friday (26th) morning.
As always, thanks for reading,
- MB McCart