Some taxes for city residents would increase under DeKalb County’s budget proposalDeKalb 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.
“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.