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COVID death rate in Carroll higher than metro counties

Carroll County has surpassed 1,000 cases of COVID-19 as Tanner Health System is reporting a nearly 11% positive testing rate in their system.

The Department of Public Health is also reporting that the rate of deaths in Carroll County is higher than the rate calculated for all of the surrounding counties in Georgia, including metro Atlanta.

Tanner Health System has been reporting daily positive cases of COVID-19 on a weekly basis, with the most recent data extending to July 7. In this data, the number of positive tests has increased, surpassing daily positive cases from the end of March and April.

On July 2 and July 6, Tanner Health System reported each day as having 38 positive tests for that day in its Georgia facilities, the highest daily positive test results, according to data provided by Tanner.

The next highest single day positive test result count was June 29, with 33 positive results in one day.

Out of the 9,467 total tests performed, there were 965 positive test results, putting the positive rate percentage at 10.95%.

There have been 40 total deaths due to COVID in Carroll County according to DPH, and the last death occurred on June 13.

The DPH measures the severity of the pandemic based on the number of cases that appear per 100,000 residents of a county. By that reckoning, the 33.3 death rate in Carroll is higher than all the metro Atlanta counties.

Those are: Fulton at a rate of 29.2, DeKalb at a rate of 22.3, Gwinnett at a rate of 18.3, Cobb at a rate of 31.6, Clayton at a rate of 26.6, Coweta at a rate of 10.5, Douglas at a rate of 25.7, Fayette at a rate of 16.2, and Henry at a rate of 14.2.

Despite a lower death rate, the top five counties in Georgia for positive COVID-19 cases are Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett, and Hall counties. For deaths per 100,000 people, Hall County has 30.5.

Tanner’s health system tracks cases for both those reported at Tanner’s hospitals in Georgia as well as its facility in Alabama. In Georgia, Tanner Health System has hospitals in Carrollton, Villa Rica and Bremen.

The numbers reported by Tanner reflect cases that have been tested or treated within the health system, regardless of the county of patient origin. The data does not include any tests performed by the local health department, government agencies or non-Tanner affiliated clinics.

The Georgia Department of Public Health does, however, track cases based on the county of origin for the patient. Carroll County passed the 1,000 case threshold on July 7 and the county is currently sitting at 1,008 cases.

DPH is reporting 117 cumulative hospitalizations in the county and Tanner Health System is not providing online data for hospitalizations rates in their health system.

On Monday, the Times-Georgian requested daily numbers for hospitalization rates for COVID-19. However, Tanner officials did not respond.

Sales tax revenues higher than expected in Carroll

Sales tax revenue in Carroll County has been better than expected in recent weeks, a fact that pleases officials in the county’s two largest cities.

Jim Triplett, finance manager for Carrollton, said Friday the sale tax revenues had proved to be “a very pleasant surprise,” given the fact that revenues across the state have fallen with the economic slowdown precipitated by the coronavirus pandemic.

And Tom Barber, city manager for Villa Rica, declared that the city is “less behind” than he thought it would be back in April, when shelter-in-place orders effectively caused a shutdown of many retail outlets not considered essential.

That does not mean that sales tax revenues were not down in both cities. But the decrease did not have the impact on city incomes that municipal leaders had feared.

In fact, Triplett said, the city finished its fiscal year on June 30 with sale taxes 4% above the budgeted amount. Instead of netting the estimated $4.6 million, the city collected $4.8 million.

“So, it was a very, very pleasant surprise for us,” Triplett said.

Late Friday, Gov. Brian Kemp’s office reported that the state’s gross sales and use tax collections were down $28.8 million, or 2.7% below what they were in fiscal year 2019. The adjusted sales tax distributions to local governments like Carrollton and Villa Rica are down 3.8% from last year, the governor’s office said.

Sales tax flows into cities in the form of revenue from Local Option Sales Taxes and Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. LOST revenues are unrestricted and are a major source of income for a city’s general operating fund. SPLOST revenues, however, can only be used for certain capital projects. For this reason, the LOST revenue decides whether a city’s budgeted income will meet its budgeted expenses.

While Carrollton draws most of its sales taxes from Carroll County, Villa Rica gets revenue from the 60% of the city that is in Carroll and the 40% that is in Douglas County.

Before the virus even made its appearance, Villa Rica had made decisions that may have helped the city weather the economic downturn.

A decision three years ago to change the fiscal year and a recent surge in building permits has raised hopes by city officials that Villa Rica may be in good financial standing through the end of its budget cycle, which ends in September.

Economic figures to be presented during a City Council meeting next week are expected to show that at the end of May, sales tax collected in Carroll County was about $10,000 less than it had been during the same period last year — $125,572 this year, compared to $135,000 at the end of May 2019.

Sales tax revenue from Douglas County had dipped to $105,486 at the end of May, compared to $119,731 at the close of May 2019.

These returns, however, were large enough to make up for a previous dip in sales tax reported in April, Barber said.

In September 2017 the city council voted to change the city’s fiscal year to one of October through September, instead of the previous budgetary cycle that tracked the calendar year.

The new fiscal year more closely matches the schedule used by Douglas and Carroll counties to collect property taxes, and allows for other parts of the city’s annual income to be reported in the first part of the calendar year, making budget forecasting more accurate.

As a result, Villa Rica has already gathered revenue from property taxes as well as other large sources of city income, including the state distribution of insurance premium taxes, business licenses, and franchise fees.

However, the city lost some revenue through the temporary closure of the municipal court, as well as fees that would have been collected through the recreation department and from the Pine Mountain Gold Museum, both of which had to be closed to prevent crowds that might spread the virus.

But in the meantime, Barber said, more building permits had been issued during June than at any time in recent memory--70, compared to the previous record of 41 permits. Those fees are not only a revenue source, but also represents new construction that will add to the city’s tax base.

“But the big one was the sales tax,” Barber said. “So as long as it’s okay, then (with) the big aggregate number, we’ve got a chance to still get through the year okay, I think.”

Triplett said that had sales tax revenue for Carrollton dipped below the city’s budgeted level, officials had a plan in place to cut costs--a plan that can still be instituted if the sales tax trend worsens.

“Things are looking good right now, but you never know what next month holds,” Triplett said. “And so we’re not taking it for granted by any means.”

City plans to keep millage rates steady

Carrollton’s government plans to keep property taxes the same when it sets its millage rate, while the school board seeks to maintain its millage rate, causing an effective tax increase.

The city of Carrollton City has said it intends to have no increase in the millage rate, opting instead to maintain taxes with a rollback rate.

A millage rate is a tax rate that — when multiplied against the assessed value of taxable property — calculates the amount of taxes a resident will pay each year. One “mill” is equal to one one-thousandth of a dollar of property tax, or $1 for every $1,000 of taxable value.

The city of Carrollton plans to adopt a rollback millage rate during its August 3 meeting. The rollback rate is calculated to be at 4.489, according to Jim Triplett, the finance director for the city of Carrollton.

A rollback millage rate is what the rate would have to be to generate the same amount of revenue as the current millage rate. The current mileage rate is at 4.60, where it has been set at for the past three years.

Even with the rollback rate, Carrollton officials estimate that the city will collect $147,000, or a 3% increase in taxes than it did last year. This is due to new tax revenue for Carrollton, which is primarily derived from new construction, according to Triplett.

The Tax Assessor’s Office estimates that with the rollback millage rate, the city will generate $4,584,785 in total revenue.

Meanwhile, school officials for the Carrollton Board of Education announced that they intend to keep their millage rate at the same rate as last year’s rate at 18.50. This would be the fourth consecutive year that the millage rate remained the same.

Although the rate would remain the same, it will still result in an increase in tax revenue because of an increase in property values.

The increase would be a 2.74% increase over what would be generated if the BOE were to adopt its rollback millage rate.

An estimate provided by the Tax Assessor’s Office indicates that the proposed millage rate of 18.50 would amount to $15,909,529 in taxes levied or $765,943 more than the prior year.

The net taxes levied between the proposed rate and the current year would be an increase of 5.06%. For 2019, the net taxes levied by the school system were $15,143,586.

The proposed tax increase for a home with a fair market value of $150,000 is approximately $27.66 increase and the proposed tax increase for non-homestead property with a fair market value of $125,0000 is approximately $24.70 increase, according to the school system.

Because the millage rate is not below the rollback millage rate, it is considered a tax increase under state law, and tax increases cannot be approved by a taxing body without three public hearings.

The Board of Education will conduct those hearings so that any concerned citizens can address the board. One meeting has already been held and the remaining two will be held Aug. 6 at 8 a.m., and Aug. 11 at 6 p.m.

School systems pass tentative budgets for new term

Both school systems in Carroll County have passed tentative budgets this past month after after the state budget was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Carrollton City School System and Carroll County School System have passed tentative budgets for the next fiscal year. Upon review of the budgets, the districts respective school boards will meet in the coming future to approve their final budgets.

At Carroll County School system, officials have planned for approximately $170.8 million in revenue.

Quality Basic Education (QBE) formula is used to determine funding for K-12 education at the state level. For this fiscal year, the Georgia legislature had to cut approximately 10% of QBE funding to make up for negative economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.

While this is less than the originally planned 14% reduction, school systems will still have to find ways account for a 10% reduction in state QBE.

The state revenue for the county school system via QBE is the largest source of revenue for schools, at approximately $86.8 million. Local revenue is the second largest source of revenue and would generate approximately $41.3 million.

Instruction would be the largest expenditure under the tentative budget, accounting for $100 million of the total expenditures.

For Carrollton City Schools, school officials have planned for approximately $47 million in both revenue and expenditures.

QBE is also the largest source of funding for this school system at approximately $27.5 million. The next largest source of revenue is local taxes, which would bring in an estimated $16.8 million.

In terms of expenditures, instructional programs will be the largest cost for the school system, totaling an estimated $34 million.

The Carrollton Board of Education will adopt the final budget at a future board meeting. Carroll County Board of Education will consider final adoption of the budget at a called meeting on July 27, 2020.