PORTERDALE -- The City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday night to increase the property tax millage rate by 2 mills and take some cost-cutting steps in order to end the year in the black. Porterdale's current millage is 17.518 mills.
In addition to the millage increase, the city will eliminate two positions -- one in Public Works and the other in the Police Department; require all remaining full-time employees to take two furlough days per month; and seek to break its lease of the City Hall Annex facility.
After hearing from Newton County Tax Assessor Tommy Knight about the city's shrinking tax base and reviewing the options available to keep the city solvent, City Manager Bob Thomson told City Council members that the 2 mill increase and spending cuts were the best option.
Councilwoman Linda Finger voted against the tax increase; other council members reluctantly voted in favor.
Councilman Lowell Chambers pointed out that two furlough days per month will amount to a 10 percent pay cut for the remaining city employees.
"I want to make sure we all understand exactly what that means before we start voting on it," he said.
Councilwoman Arline Chapman acknowledged that increasing taxes was a tough but necessary decision.
"The reality of this is if property tax (collections) go down, the money has to come from some place," she said.
Thomson said the city is not looking to collect more in taxes than in the previous year. The millage increase will be necessary to "keep our heads above water," he said.
In the past year the city has seen decreases in property values, implementation of a $10,000 homestead exemption and declining sales tax revenues.
The city has also been able to make fund transfers in the past in order to keep the budget balanced; however, those funds have been depleted.
"Nobody likes what we are doing," Thomson said, adding that the town's resources are slim. "Last year, we borrowed from the Water Fund and the year before that we borrowed from the Recreation Fund."
Councilmembers also called on city residents to lend a hand as city services are cut, particularly in terms of landscaping and appearance.
"If you want the city to look good, people are going to have to step up and volunteer," Chapman said.
Resident Jack Kotl agreed that residents should pitch in.
"What if each individual gave four hours a week to the city," Kotl said. "That's not very much. I would be willing to do it, and I know others who would be willing to do it."