Just as DeKalb County is considering a 4.35 mill tax increase, the various cities in the county are scrambling to make mid-year budget adjustments in light of low property values.
“It’s scary,” Stone Mountain city manager Barry Amos said about the city’s $31 million drop in property values, which will mean a $340,000 decline in its revenue. The 34.09 percent decline in property values is the worst in the county, according to digest numbers provided by the county.
Stone Mountain city department heads have been told they are going to have to reduce their budgets and eliminate open positions, Amos said.
“The mayor and council are very concerned about the impact on the citizens,” Amos said. “The position of the mayor and council is that there will not be a tax increase.”
After a news report showed homes sales in the 30083 zip code dropped only 1.5 percent last year, Amos said city officials are “puzzled” by the 34.09 percent drop cited by DeKalb County.
“We are asking them to explain what methodologies they used to reduce the digest by 34.09 percent,” Amos said.
The tax digest for the city of Chamblee is an anomaly in DeKalb County. After its annexation of 6,000 residents and 1.5 square miles took effect this year, Chamblee is the only DeKalb city showing a property value increase; Chamblee’s real estate values are up $222.9 million.
“We’ve always been conservative,” said Chamblee Police Chief Marc Johnson, who prepared the city’s budget.
Even if the final tax numbers are 10 percent lower, the city will still have more than enough room in its budget to avoid a tax increase.
“We are certainly not raising our millage rates,” Johnson said.
Facing a $23.7 million drop in real estate values, Doraville officials are still trying to determine what the city’s deficit will be, said Shanta Wilson, finance director.
“It’s a matter of cutting,” Wilson said. “We haven’t finished cutting yet.”
Doraville is looking at changing its employee medical insurance plan andeliminating its employer-provided life insurance. The city’s retirement plan is also under review, Wilson said.
Although Dunwoody’s tax digest has dropped $183 million, city officials said they anticipated the decrease in their budget preparations.
“We do not anticipate any budgetary changes as a result of the digest’s release, nor do we anticipate any reduction in services or increase in proposed taxes to support the services currently provided to our citizens,” said finance director Chris Pike.
“I am comfortable with our budget projections for taxes,” Pike said. “We expect our overall tax revenues (all sources) to exceed our current budget.”
In Avondale Estates, the city’s real property value declined by $29.3 million, leaving the city with an 18 percent or $280,000 budget shortfall. Elsewhere in DeKalb, Lithonia’s real estate values dropped by $14.8 million, while values in Decatur and Pine Lake dropped $6.98 million and $3.8 million, respectively. Clarkston experienced a $14.8 million decline in property values.