The county is on the precipice of setting in motion a serious of events that could substantially raise your property taxes.
It has come to light that if the county puts a SPLOST referendum on the ballot this November, and it passes, the property assessment freeze will cease to be in effect. We know this now based on a recent review by legislative counsel of HB 596. The legal opinion concluded that:
“…HB 596 serves to suspend the homestead valuation freeze currently in effect in DeKalb County if the new HOST and a Splost are approved in the November election.”
That means that 10 years of increases in your property value, which have been shielded from county and city taxes, will instantly become taxable. You will be providing the county and cities with a sales tax and property tax windfall.
As you know, I have expressed my opposition to the SPLOST because the county’s project list shortchanges real needs (paving and public safety) while spending heavily on pet projects.
Now, the stakes are even higher. At this point, even if the project list was perfect, bringing this SPLOST forward for a vote in November is irresponsible. To go forward would mean a devastating tax increase on 10 years of property value growth that has been shielded.
Unfortunately, the county has asked the cities to support the SPLOST referendum. I have been disappointed that, even before the HB 596 problem became apparent, many cities have already agreed to support the county.
If the county can get every single city to agree, they can extend the tax for another year – 6 years in total. Many city council members from cities in District 1 have expressed to me that if they agree to an “Intergovernmental Agreement” (IGA), they’ll get a more favorable distribution of the SPLOST tax revenue. The members often tell me that they have suggested the county improve its project list. I’m sure the county has taken their suggestion seriously.
Keep in mind, for every dollar of sales tax collected, 75-cents will go to the county and 25-cents will get divided up between the cities (Decatur, Lithonia, Pine Lake, Chamblee, Clarkston, Doraville, Tucker, Brookhaven, Dunwoody, and Stone Mountain). For example, Brookhaven and Dunwoody will receive approximately 7-cents from each dollar of SPLOST. Nonetheless, they believe it is in their cities interest to get a small increase in their SPLOST revenue, even if 75% of what you are paying is going to the wasteful county project list. It’s like thanking a pickpocket for giving you a stick of gum while he takes your wallet.
But now, we are a long way from haggling how to divide up a few cents on the margin. We are at the point where enacting a SPLOST will trigger a massive property tax increase.
Enter the Intergovernmental Agree (IGA) issue. The only city that has yet to sign on and execute an IGA is Dunwoody. If Dunwoody, agrees to move forward with an IGA, then your risk for a sustained property tax increase just got bigger. If Dunwoody agrees to the IGA, the county can call the SPLOST referendum in November, and because all cities will have agreed, the term of the sales tax will be extended to 6 years.
Dunwoody City Council will meet on Monday, July 18th, to decide whether or not to sign the county’s IGA. Those that want to sign the IGA have suggested that it’s good for Dunwoody because it improves their SPLOST revenue by $1.5 million over the 6 year period – the county’s “sweetener” to get the city on board. I have heard the suggestion that this problem can get “fixed” in the next legislative session. Are you willing to “hope” that this gets fixed? Are you willing to take that risk with so much of your money on the table?
If Dunwoody signs the IGA it allows the city to be used as a pawn by the county in a game that has serious wasteful and taxation implications. Worst of all, if this goes forward to the ballot and passes, your property taxes will go through the roof. And, Dunwoody will have agreed to give them an extra year on that one, all in exchange for a few more of your dollars over 6 years.
Please let your Dunwoody councilmember hear you on this matter. We cannot encourage the county to move forward with such a risky and flawed proposal. We cannot support the removal of the assessment freeze. I hope that you will join me in my efforts to oppose this.