Some taxes for city residents would increase under DeKalb County’s budget proposal

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt January 14, 2015
DeKalb County Georgia. Source: Google Maps.

DeKalb County Georgia. Source: Google Maps.

Some arcane budgeting concepts have crept into DeKalb County’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget proposal, and the result is higher taxes for residents of the county’s cities.

But the county’s Deputy Chief Financial Officer Jay Vinicki says the flip side of that is those same residents saw a tax cut in Fiscal Year 2014.

For example: Atlanta’s county tax millage decreased from 11.51 to 9.03 in Fiscal Year 2014. The proposal for 2015 is 12.10, a 34 percent increase. Avondale Estates’ millage will increase by 25.5 percent under the proposal and Decatur’s will increase by 32 percent.

The see-sawing of the millage from Fiscal 2014 to Fiscal 2015 is part of an attempt to rebuild the county’s reserve funds, Vinicki said. He equated the tax bill to a “restaurant menu.” Some residents pay taxes for police services, while residents in the cities that have police departments – like Decatur and Atlanta – don’t pay them.

“Every single parcel in the county is charged seven different taxes,” Vinicki said. “This is what makes counties more complex than cities.”

Here is the breakdown of the changes for each city in the Fiscal 2015 budget draft.

Source: DeKalb County.

Source: DeKalb County.

“A few years ago we needed to have more money in the police fund,” Vinicki said. “We decreased the general fund rate by 2.5 mills and raised the police rate almost 2 mills.”

All residents of the county pay the general fund tax, but not all of them pay the police tax.

“If you lived in a city in 2014 your rates went down because you don’t pay the police tax,” Vinicki said.  “In 2015 the reverse (happens), the general fund rate (is raised) and the police fund (is lowered).”

The net effect is a 4 to 5 percent millage increase over two years, he said.

Vinicki said the purpose of all this back and forth is improving the county’s credit rating by boosting the county’s reserves to cover one month of operating expenses.

“It’s very tough to make it so that it’s flat for everybody until we get to a state of one month fund balance in every fund,” he said. “Once we get back to that, it will be easier for the county to have stable millage rates.”

Commissioners Kathie Gannon and Jeff Rader confirmed Vinicki’s explanation of the proposal.

“The bottom line is some municipalities are going to end up with a higher millage rate from the county if we pass the budget,” Rader said.

The County Commission will have to approve the budget by the end of February, county spokesperson Burke Brennan said.

Read More: This is the Fiscal Year 2015 budget proposal for DeKalb County. 


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  • jo

    So the nitty gritty of this is the more layers of government the more we pay in taxes.

  • HB

    No, jo, you must have misread the article, or the headline. This is about Dekalb taxes. If youre in a city, some of your taxable services are transferred to the city tax bill–NOT added on TOP of your county bill. Some who are in cities, for example, pay for police now to their city, not to the county. And, since cities manage services in a leaner fashion, often with less bloat or graft, the bill for these services are less to the city than we would pay to the county.

    And, those stuck in unincorporated areas will be left to pay MORE to keep an existing business infrastructure in place: all those county jobs that this budget says they wont be eliminating…until that worker leaves on their own volition or dies.

    So, since cities can manage their “household budget” in a leaner, more targeted fashion, cities can cost us less in the long run, if we elect the right people. (A key responsibility of ours as citizens… we can have that, but we have to care and actually vote. Govt is us, to the degree we give a …hoot. It’s only insidious if we neglect to stay involved.)

    Nitty gritty is, the cities ariund us are enjoying a lower net bill. This will naturally ebb and flow as new services and issues arise, but it’s then OUR budget to improve OUR district. When I want a new TV, I dont complain to the store I have to pay for it. If we want nice things like sidewalks or parks, we are gonna have to pay for them. A city can shop a better deal for us though.

  • jo

    I must disagree. Services like police are stretched much farther on the tax payer dollar in the unincorporated. In just this one area the only city that provides a comparable depth of police services is Atlanta. The cities all have an extra line item on the tax bill for enhanced police from the county. If they were doing it better or providing all the necessary services then that line would not be on the bill. I’m not sure what your referring to when you state “business infrastructure” but I hope you don’t mean easy access to tax revenue to fund their developments. Thats a minefield and deadly to cities over the long run. The suggestion that cities operate with” less bloat and graft” is purely speculative and I would point to Atlanta as a counter opinion, also a two or three year history of the new cities which only provide some services is NOT a good selling point for me. These cities in the not to distant future will declare their dire situation to the legislature and pull an end run around their existing charters to raise their tax rates. But I also know that the county budget is OUR budget and the county district is OUR district and by electing the right people the unincorporated can cost us less in the long run. I think that cost of living is what brought most to Dekalb.

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