Kennesaw city council member suggests tax cut at budget work session

Parks Director Steve Roberts informed the council of the need to make a decision on whether to hold upcoming events during the COVID-19 pandemic.(from Zoom session)

Kennesaw’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2021, with a general fund of about $25 million, reflects no change in the millage rate and a 3% overall tax revenue increase, which led Councilman David Blinkhorn to suggest a tax cut or rollback rate.

“We just came off a great year, and as all of us are aware, this is probably the worst first six months of a year that we’ve ever had. It’s my understanding that we made some tough business decisions as a city, we didn’t tap into any reserves, we had plenty of money, and here we are, going into really uncertain times and we are asking for an increase. I think the value they put into their property should be rewarded,” Blinkhorn said.

The millage rate has remained steady at 8 mills since 2008. Property taxes are the city’s largest source of revenue. The increase in revenue for 2021 is attributed to new development and re-evaluations by the Cobb County tax assessor. This year’s budget reflects a 1% increase over last year’s.

Due to the negative effects of COVID-19, no cost of living adjustment is planned for this year. The city’s reserve account is budgeted to receive $832,124.

According to City Manager Jeff Drobney, the city saw a reduction in revenues from ad valorem taxes, SPLOST and liquor sales in restaurants.

“My biggest concern is 18 months from now…We are in a position, unlike other communities across the country that rely heavily on sales tax or income tax, we do not. The vast majority of our revenue comes from property tax so this year we’re solid. But we do not know how long this is gonna last. We don’t know the impact that it’s going to have, so we are preparing not for today, but for the future, to make certain that we are on a solid foundation and a solid base moving forward,” Drobney said.

Drobney also told the council that the senior property tax exemption shortfall continues to grow and the amount not collected will pass $1 million next year.

“My job is to let you know that it is not sustainable in the long run. It will continue to grow and multiply as the number of people hit the age of 65,” he said.

The budget draft is posted on the city’s website and can be viewed here.

The first millage rate hearing is August 10, with the second and third hearings on August 17.

Also discussed at Monday’s work session:

Alcohol Ordinance

City Council is considering changes to Kennesaw’s alcohol ordinances that would allow establishments located inside the entertainment district, not currently defined in the alcohol code, to obtain liquor sales permits.

Councilman Pat Ferris said he didn’t see a benefit to such a change and asked why the council was wasting its time on the issue.

Blinkhorn responded that there were new opportunities in upcoming multi-use developments such as Schoolhouse Village and that he’d also heard from people interested in creating entertainment venues.

Councilwoman Tracey Viars said they’ve already had to turn down two or three Truck & Tap concepts, like the ones in Alpharetta and Woodstock.

Bob Fox, director of economic development, said he has spoken with a business interested in opening an entertainment venue with an arcade, duckpin bowling, ping pong and pool in the Schoolhouse Village development. He said there’s also interest in opening an axe throwing venue, an activity that has been growing in popularity recently. These businesses do not serve food and would not be able to apply for a liquor license under the current ordinance.

Pigs & Peaches and Salute to America

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and rising numbers of infections, the city is facing the decision of whether to cancel the Pigs & Peaches Festival at the end of August and the Salute to America Celebration, which was already rescheduled to Sep. 12 from its usual date of July 3.

The issue will be on the agenda for a vote at Monday’s regular session.

Citizens may attend the meetings, but space is limited due to social distancing protocols. Overflow attendees will be directed to the Ben Robertson Community Center where the council can be addressed via live stream. The meetings are also streamed on the city’s Facebook page. Public comment can also be made via email at Comments will be shared at the regular session.

Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.