Kennesaw adopts millage rate; council members disagree on rollback

Screenshot of rendering of townhome development to be built at 1630 Stanley Rd.Screenshot of rendering of townhome development to be built at 1630 Stanley Rd.

Kennesaw adopted a maintenance and operations (M&O) millage rate of 8.0 mills and a bond millage rate of 1.5 mills at Monday’s city council meeting.

The rates are the same as last year, but due to increases in property values, there will be an increase in the taxes levied this year by 6.91% for M&O and 6.38% for the bond rate over the rollback millage rate. Last year, Councilman David Blinkhorn was unsuccessful in his effort to convince the rest of the council to adopt a rollback rate on the M&O.

“In each of the past few years I have asked for, at minimum, a rollback to the previous year, and to implement some fiscal responsibility for the future. Last year we had a boom year and nobody had the stomach to roll it back then. And now we have a down year and nobody has the stomach for a rollback, so it would appear that we’re never gonna roll it back or give anything back to the city. So when I vote against it, I just want everyone to understand why,” Blinkhorn said.

The 8.0 mill M&O rate passed 4-1, with Blinkhorn as the lone nay vote.

The 1.5 mill recreation and traffic safety bond rate passed 3-2, with Pat Ferris and Blinkhorn as the nay votes. Ferris advocated for the 1.41 mill rollback rate, which would have saved $8 a year per family and cost the city $127,000, according to Finance Director Gina Auld.

“It’s a piddling amount admittedly, but doggone. It would be nice, for once, to do a rollback. I’m not aware of this city ever rolling back anything ever,” Ferris said.

“Not knowing what this COVID thing is going to do for the next 12 to 18 months, I think it would be a poor choice to rollback anything right now…it just doesn’t make sense to me for $0.67 a month,” Councilman James “Doc” Eaton said.

Councilman Chris Henderson said, “In my opinion we need to stay steady. We’re building the reserves, we’re financially stable right now, and $8 is not a substantial amount…we gotta play the long game here.”

According to Auld, Kennesaw has a three month reserve, or $4.9 million. The recommendation by the Government Finance Officers Association is to have two to four months of operating expenses in reserve.

Councilwoman Tracey Viars asked if the bond could be paid off early by keeping the rate the same. Auld said it could and that she would encourage the city to do so. The bond is scheduled to be paid off in 2029.

In other business:

*Council passed a code amendment to add a zoning district that deals with purpose-built student housing. The new district establishes expectations for height, buffers, amenities, parking and security for developers wishing to create apartment complexes for students. It would be used in place of multi-family zoning designations with multiple site specific conditions added. The new zoning district was created in response to the growing population at Kennesaw State University. The amendment passed 3-1 with Councilman Ferris in opposition and Councilwoman Viars, who works in commercial real estate, recused.

Ferris has been at odds with Zoning Administrator Darryl Simmons for months over certain details in the plan, in particular, parking requirements. In an effort to encourage use of public transit, 0.75 parking spaces per bedroom are required. Ferris wanted a requirement of one spot per bedroom as he has said he finds the belief that students will not bring cars to school, in favor of public and alternative transportation, unrealistic.

*The rezoning of 1630 Stanley Rd. to light industrial for a warehouse and distribution center and to FST for a townhome community passed unanimously. When Oakmont Pacolet Acquisitions presented the original plan earlier this year, it was met with vocal opposition from neighbors. They created a Facebook group and online petition to stop the zoning change. After revisions to the site plan and community meetings, the opposition appeared to decrease significantly. A few residents addressed the council and planning commission with their concerns about traffic and buffers, but the Facebook group was deleted and previous organizers didn’t respond to requests for comment.

*The public works complex will be renamed the Dale Burrell Complex in recognition of his contributions to the city. Burrell died in April. Council approved new signage to be placed at the complex at a cost of $1,350.

*Derek Cox, business license supervisor for Kennesaw, was presented with a certificate of excellence for completing his Certificate of Local Government Management, which is awarded by the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government through the Management Development Program.

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.