The large disparity in the county property tax rates that took mayors by surprise last year probably won’t be repeated this year.
In December, DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis proposed raising the millage rate by 1.69 mills in the 2013 budget but entirely within the general fund which applies to tax bills in both cities and the unincorporated areas.
The CEO lowered the tax hike to only .64 mills in his Jan. 31 amendment. Commissioners hoped to receive a second amendment to eliminate the tax increase at their retreat last Friday but no formal amendment was offered.
According to a budget analysis by commission staff, “the proposed increase in the General Fund makes the unincorporated and incorporated comparison a moot point for 2013.”
Last July after the commissioners adopted the 2012 midyear budget, the mayors learned from The Crier that the property tax rate had risen overall by 7 to 15 percent in the cities while the rate remained the same in unincorporated DeKalb. The average increase was 9.6 percent for the cities.
The 2012 budget lowered the tax for the police fund by 36.87 percent because it was set too high in 2011, resulting in a large fund balance used to cover part of the 2012 police budget. Only the unincorporated area benefited from this decrease in the police fund tax which offset increases in other funds. However, the 2013 proposed budget did not cut the tax rate for the police fund. .
The commissioners were told at their retreat that a tax increase may be needed in the police fund in unincorporated areas in 2014, offset by a decrease in the General Fund rate.
The commissioners also looked at the effect of proposed 2013 budget on businesses.
Property values for commercial and industrial properties in DeKalb have dropped 8 percent and 15.6 percent since 2008, much better than housing values, which fell 23.6 percent. Business properties are not eligible for HOST tax credits that reduced property taxes on homes by about 50 percent in recent years.
If the CEO’s original 2013 budget proposal were adopted, the typical tax bill for business properties in DeKalb would have gone from $8,373 to $10, 994, a 31.3 percent increase since 2007.
In other action at their Feb. 12 meeting, the county commissioners passed a resolution asking the General Assembly to adopt legislation this year to increase DeKalb’s hotel/motel tax from the current 5 percent to 8 percent. The county would provide 3.5 percent of the tax to the DeKalb Convention and Visitors Bureau and spend 4.5 percent to promote tourism and conventions. Cobb, Clayton and Gwinnett Counties and the city of Atlanta charge a 7 percent hotel/motel tax and several other metro jurisdictions charge 8 percent.