DeKalb County released two reports this week, one projecting the proposed city of Brookhaven to start off with a deficit, but then a second report providing evidence that Brookhaven would get a million-dollar sales tax windfall, leaving Brookhaven with a healthy surplus.
DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis released updated figures from the 2012 tax digest to claim that property taxes in the proposed city of Brookhaven had fallen 6.82 percent, and would collect $495,902 less than last year. The CEO’s conclusion is that the new city would start off with a budget deficit of $360,554. City opponents used the report to declare the new city would be on shaky financial ground. Opponents answered that the projected half-million dollar loss in tax revenues is but a small percentage of total projected revenues of $25 million, and newly elected city council members could adjust the budget to account for the slight dip in revenue. As reported in The Crier, the Carl Vinson Institute of Government declined to update the study saying adjusting just one number, as the county did, would give an “unbalanced report” unless all sources of revenues and expenses were recalculated.
Another report several days later turned that number around. DeKalb’s finance chief, Joel Gottlieb, told the county commission’s budget committee that sales tax receipts or Homestead Option Sales Tax (HOST) totals were $103.4 million, an increase of 20 percent over last year. Eighty percent of HOST funds are used to lower property tax bills, but the rest is used for capital costs, and distributed proportionately to the county and its municipalities.
According to the formula used by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, it is estimated that the HOST funds received by the proposed city of Brookhaven would go up in excess of $1 million dollars, from the $5.1 estimated in the feasibility study, to $6.36 million, more than offsetting the predicted decline in the property tax digest.
Brookhaven Yes issued a release touting the news and adding another $50,000 in tax revenue from Town Brookhaven that had not been counted in the earlier feasibility report. It also subtracted the $30,000 saved when the number of city council districts was changed from seven to five. Their conclusion was the changed numbers, “equals a budget surplus of $1,076,951.”
The Brookhaven Yes release added, “DeKalb County has wasted your tax dollars to prepare a deceptive ‘study’and press release, and spent $225,000 on a lobbyist, to advance the ‘No City’ Campaign. Please call CEO Burrell Ellis and ask him to stop wasting your tax dollars on the ‘No City’ Campaign.”