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Richmond Hill accepts $3.5M settlement to resolve 2018 suit

August 27, 2021 GMT

RICHMOND HILL, Ga. (AP) — A property tax dispute between a Georgia county and one of its municipalities has been resolved.

Bryan County has agreed to pay the City of Richmond Hill $3.5 million to settle a three-year-old lawsuit, The Savannah Morning News reported.

The settlement will be used for eight infrastructure projects, including road improvements and traffic signals, that Richmond Hill and Bryan County will work on together. The county also agreed to put an ambulance and emergency medical crew within Richmond Hill’s limits to assist the city’s growing elderly population. The agreement also states the county will repay more than $2.5 million to the general fund.

The lawsuit alleged that the county had breached a contract by increasing property taxes for owners in Richmond Hill and had erroneously used money from the general fund for services designated for unincorporated areas. Richmond Hill is one of Bryan County’s two incorporated cities. Pembroke is the other.

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A 2018 Bryan County Commission’s decision to raise the millage rate in Richmond Hill to 8.8 mills, an increase that meant property owners would pay 12% more in taxes than the previous 14 years, sparked the lawsuit.

The increase was intended to equalize the millage rate among the county’s three tax districts: Richmond Hill, Pembroke and the unincorporated county. But Richmond Hill alleged that by doing so, the county breached a contract called the service delivery strategy, which outlines what constitutes countywide services and who should pay for them.

“The City looks forward to working with Pembroke and Bryan County to address the challenges of our growing community, the fastest growing county in the state. We have come a long way, and we have a lot of work to do together,” said Richmond Hill Mayor Russ Carpenter.

The county, in a statement Monday, said they “worked to ensure the resolution of those issues was fair and in the interest of all Bryan County citizens, both inside and outside incorporated areas.”