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Porterdale set to boost millage rate

PORTERDALE -- The City Council received little input at two public hearings held in advance of a vote to increase the town's property tax millage from 9.156 mills to 17.518.

City officials say the millage increase is needed to help close a revenue gap of $110,000 and compensate for a decrease in property values.

The proposed millage increase is made up of the rollback rate, which is 13.518, plus another 4-mill increase. The rollback rate is the millage that would be needed to generate the same amount of tax revenue as the previous year.

At 17.518 mills, the tax increase for an average Porterdale residential property would be approximately $40 to $60 per year, according to City Clerk Judy Johnson.

The council is expected to vote on the millage rate increase at its July 12 meeting.

Two residents spoke briefly at the first public hearing, held Wednesday, June 30, questioning spending for the Porterdale Police Department.

"Everything has been cut except the Police Department, and they drive their cars home," resident Tim Johnson said.

The Police Department budget for fiscal year 2010, which includes proposed budget amendments to be approved this month, totals $553,753. Spending for the Police Department makes up nearly 53 percent of the town's total $1,049,207 budgeted expenditures.

Councilman Robert Foxworth defended the Police Department's funding, saying that officers did not receive a pay increase last year and that the privilege of driving their cars home was offered in lieu of a raise.

Johnson said police services have received more funding while public services have been cut.

"In my opinion the county could handle everything that goes on down here," Johnson said. "But my vote doesn't count."

Resident Jack Kottl echoed Johnson's concern about police officers driving their patrol cars home.

"I never could understand this, even before I moved to Porterdale," Kottl said. "I moved to the South about 35 years ago, and I never could understand why they take the cars home."

Foxworth said police cars wear out faster if they are constantly on the road.

"It's been proven that a pool car is treated like a rental car," added City Manager Bob Thomson. "It shouldn't be, but (the cars) just aren't maintained as well."

Thomson said officers who are allowed to drive their cars home at the end of their shift treat the vehicles as their own.

One resident spoke at the second public hearing Thursday on the proposed millage rate. The woman, who did not identify herself, indicated she was resigned to the millage rate increase.

When encouraged to speak by Mayor Bobby Hamby she replied, "There's no point. The way the economy is today, the housing market. Do what you've got to do."