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Decatur City Commission adopts 2021 millage rate

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Decatur City Commission adopts 2021 millage rate

The Decatur City Commission met via Zoom on Monday, June 21, to discuss the millage rate and budgets, the tax allocation district and the consolidated fee schedule. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

Decatur, GA — The Decatur City Commission, at its June 21 meeting, approved the 2021 millage rate and it is set at 13.92 mills, which is the same rate that was set for 2020.

The funds collected through the millage rate are used for general operations, capital improvements, downtown development authority operations and debt service.

The millage rate will result in a tax increase of 2.81%.

The millage rate and property taxes vary from property to property. An individual’s taxes are based on their property value.

“If someone’s property value remains the same from 2020 to 2021 and the millage rate doesn’t change, then the tax amount remains the same,” City Manager Andrea Arnold previously told Decaturish. “If someone’s property value increases from 2020 to 2021 and the millage rate doesn’t change, the tax amount will increase. Individual property values may also decrease which would result in lower taxes.”

For example, if a property value increases by 10%, then the increase in taxes would be 10%. If the property value does not change, then the taxes would also not change, Arnold said.

State law requires that cities and counties calculate a rollback millage rate, which accounts for the increase in tax revenue due to property revaluation. If the city doesn’t adopt the rollback rate, and even if the millage rate stays the same, the city is required to advertise a tax increase. Although, not every property would experience a tax increase, she said.

The overall increase in the real property digest for the Decatur is 5.5% but only a portion of the tax digest increase is due to revaluation and that is the portion the city has to apply to the roll back millage rate. So the advertised tax increase is 2.81%.

“The proposed budget is built on a 5% increase in the digest. The actual digest has come in at about 5.5%,” Arnold said during the June 21 meeting. “I would expect that number to go down. The final digest, I’m sure, will be closer to that 5% number after appeals have settled.”

The only difference to the millage rates were that 0.12 mills was moved from the debt service fund to the capital improvement fund, but that did not impact the overall millage rate.

The commission also approved the revised 2020-2021 budget and the proposed 2021-2022 budget.

— In other business, the City Commission established the financing procedures and polices for tax allocation district number one, which is East Decatur. The TAD was created in December 2015 for the purpose of encouraging private investment within the area. The TAD is designed to collect the tax digest growth of new investments with in the redevelopment area and use the funds to help provide infrastructure improvements, according to the agenda packet.

Part of the eligibility requirements for TAD funding is that the minimum value for a project has to be $7.5 million and the developer has to have a financial equity commitment of 10% of the project cost, Planning and Economic Development Director Angela Threadgill said.

“Then this project, it needs to be able to generate taxes so land owned by nonprofits or places of worship, those would be excluded because they are not generating the taxes to offset the public investment that we’re making,” Threadgill said.

The developer would also have to show that the proposed project would not happen without assistance of the TAD financing. Projects additionally must meet the unified development ordinance.

The document outlines the guidelines for evaluating requests which includes redevelopment purposes.

“Some of those redevelopment purposes are streetscapes or sidewalk enhancements or improvements, stormwater management, parks and open space, the amenities and even public art and arts and cultural facilities,” Threadgill said. 

— The commission began conversations about updating the consolidated fee schedule. Part of the discussion revolved around recreation fees.

City staff proposed adjusting the park pavilion rental fee to half day and full day rates rather than hourly rates. The pool reservation fee would increase from $300 to $400 for two hours for residents, which is based on party size. The fee would increase from $350 to $450 for non-residents, City Clerk and Budget Director Meredith Roark said.

She added that the pool fee increase was based on use and keeping in line with what other metro Atlanta communities are charging.

Camp and class fees for Active Living and Children and Youth Services could be adjusted as well. The proposed Children and Youth Services camp fee for residents is $250, up from $230, and for non-residents the fee would increase from $250 to about $275.

“These changes are mostly due to the new software that active living and children and youth services are now utilizing,” Roark said. “Previously the hourly rate structure doesn’t work well in this new software, so they’re trying to make things easier on the staff side but as well as the patrons who’d like to rent these facilities.”

The vote on the consolidated fee schedule was deferred until the next meeting in July as commissioners raised concerns and questions about some increases.

“I just have a concern with even a nominal raising of fees for activities for the youth, especially considering that many of these activities were not available to young people last year and a good number of residents in the community have been adversely impacted by the results of the pandemic,” Commissioner Lesa Mayer said. 

She would prefer not to raise fees for things that are meant to enhance the lives of children in the community.

“I think we have the capability to give families a break and give them some sense of respite in increasing costs and if we have an opportunity to do that, even if it’s in a small way, I think we should take that opportunity,” she added.

— The City Commission also approved an amendment to the city manager’s contract which resulted in a 5% salary increase for Arnold. Her base salary was $170,000 and has increased to $178,500 effective July 1, according to the agenda packet.

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