This week the interim CEO for DeKalb County, Lee May, presented the Board of Commissioners with a mid-year budget. As luck would have it, most of us received our Annual Notice of Assessments in the mail. The overall tax digest has increased almost 10%.
The most important facts to note about the mid-year budget are:
- If you live in a city, DEKALB COUNTY raised your DEKALB COUNTY millage rate for 2015.
- Property values are higher than initially expected, netting $36.6 million more in taxes from you.
- DeKalb County intends to spend and keep most of the unanticipated tax revenue rather than trim the size of the county government and rolling back your taxes.
|FY 2014||Proposed FY15||Change||% Change
FY14 – FY15
|City* Millage Rates||Proposed County Millage Rate||Total Millage|
|*most current rates available|
(** If you live in Dunwoody or Brookhaven, you pay a lower combined millage rate than unincorporated DeKalb. Both cities have far more aggressive paving and infrastructure programs, as well as more park improvements.)
DeKalb County citizens should recognize that an increase, on average of 10%, in property values will result in a tax increase. If you had any increase in your property assessment, you will be paying more in 2015 than 2014 in property taxes.
The county will be growing government. The county has not come to terms with the reality of new municipal governments. Citizens have formed cities and asked for services to be delivered via these city governments. As cities have taken on the delivery of services, the county must recognize that their balance sheet must be recalibrated. Indeed, the county has less tax revenue because more now accrues to the cities. It’s called a “balance sheet” for a reason. As revenue exits the county, so does the liability to provide those services and DeKalb must subtract that liability to “balance”. This means that DeKalb must reduce the size and scope of county government. At this time, I have seen little evidence showing that the administration understands this principle.
Taxpayers should also note that they will, likely, be paying substantially more in school taxes. Taxes that are paid to the county are kept in check by the assessment freeze that holds your property assessment value at the 2007 level, unless sold or renovated. However, the assessment freeze is not applied in your school tax calculation. So, as your assessment grows, so do your school taxes. DeKalb County has the second highest school millage rate in the state. Click here for a list of the millage rates for every school district in the state. Most school districts have a cap of 20 mills for their school tax. DeKalb is one of a few counties that have a cap of 25 mills. The reason? Many years ago, DeKalb had 5 additional mills available because they had the liability of running DeKalb College; which was founded by the DeKalb Board of Education in 1958. In 1986, the Board of Regents of The University System of Georgia accepted DeKalb College as a member institution and assumed liability for its operation. DeKalb College is now run as Georgia Perimeter College and Georgia Piedmont Technical College under the University System.
Once again, as with the formation of cities in DeKalb, we have a “balance sheet” issue. As the liability for the operations of DeKalb College left the school district, so should have the ability to tax past the 20 mill limit of school districts around the state. Both the county government and the school district need to adjust their operations and budgets for the reality of the services they need to provide.
DeKalb, both county and school district, has bloated bureaucracy and poor performance delivery. You’re paying for a 2015 Mercedes-Benz S and you’re getting a 1971 Pinto. Adjustments in both costs and outcomes must be made. We should be paying less and getting better results.
Keep in mind that DeKalb County schools does not even meet the state requirement of spending 65% of the budget in the classroom (on “direct instructional expenses”). Click here to read an article on this problem. The new budget for the upcoming fiscal year beginning on July 1st (FY16) isn’t going to hit the 65% mark either.
We are all pleased that property values are rebounding but your investment in bad government just got bigger.
You can appeal your property assessment. Stan Jester has already published a blog on this. Click here to read it.