Cobb millage rate increase passes 3-2

Crowd at BOC meeting and millage rate hearing (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)Crowd at BOC meeting and millage rate hearing (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

In a 3-2 vote, the Cobb County Board of Commissioners voted to increase the millage rate to the 1.7 percent proposed by Chairman Michael Boyce. Boyce, Bob Weatherford, and Lisa Cupid voted in favor of the increase, Bob Ott and JoAnn Birrell opposed it.

The vote took place after a third and final state-mandated public hearing.  Speakers in favor of the millage rate increase significantly outnumbered opponents. [The previous line has been edited for clarification.  Follow this link for an explanation]. Supporters included police union representatives, advocates for libraries and parks, and staffers from Legal Aid.

In voting against the increase, Ott recommended cuts such as closing local branch libraries and moving to a regional system, charging parking fees for park use, purchasing used rental vehicles for the county fleet, and scaling back animal services as alternatives to a millage rate increase.

JoAnn Birrell said she could not support a 1.7 percent increase and called for a compromise that would bring the increase down.  She also supported the regional library concept.  Birrell favored a special service district for police that would remove allocations for public safety from the general fund.  She also said the county should look at restructuring employee compensation.

Weatherford, who lost his re-election bid to Keli Gambrill in a run-off Tuesday said in voting to approve the millage rate increase, “I am not going to leave this county in worse shape than when I got here, so I completely support this.”

After the vote on the millage rate increase, a brief public hearing on the budget was held, and the Board of Commissioners voted on and passed the budget.

Asked by the Courier about her reaction to the outcome of the vote, Cupid said,

“Relief.  Again I’ve learned to be a cautious optimist about this process, being in my second term, and asking, and not receiving, and continuing to just do things to support the general operation of the county. And even though I don’t think we’re where we ought to be, I think we’re in a much better position than where we would have been without this vote today. And I’ve very pleased that District 4 is going to have some very direct benefit from it,”

She said benefits to the district include increased staff at the Mable House and a police mini-precinct.

Alicia Adams of the conservative Americans for Prosperity, which organized opposition to the increase, said to the Courier,  “With Americans for Prosperity, we are all about fiscal viability and leanness in government. We believe in economic freedom and prosperity for each individual as they see fit.  So any time taxes are raised, of course, I’m going to be disappointed because I believe that I know better how to spend my money than anybody else does.”

“Having said that, I’m part of a great community. We live in Cobb County, and now we move forward. Where a lot of people have had animus in this situation, I believe that that’s the wrong thing to do. I believe the best way for us to work together is in synergy,” she said. “So I’m not pleased with it. But that’s okay. We’re community.”