Commission To Vote on City Millage Increase To Pay For CSD Bond and UMCH Property Upkeep

Tonight the Decatur City Commission has a pretty full agenda.

One important item to note is that they will be voting on a tentative six-tenths millage increase that equates to a bit more than $1 million in tax revenue, according to Asst. City Manager Andrea Arnold.  The city is assuming a 5% increase in the value of its tax digest.

Here’s her summary/breakdown from a memorandum from tonight’s meeting

The proposed increase in the general fund operating millage is two-tenths of a mill which equates to about $350,000 of tax revenue.  The additional revenue is needed to support basic maintenance and operations needs for the 77-acre property on South Columbia Drive soon to be acquired by the City.  The proposed increase in the debt service fund millage is four-tenths of a mill which equates to close to $700,000.  This increase is needed in order to make the first principal debt service payment due on August 1, 2018 for the City Schools of Decatur general obligation bonds that were approved by the voters in November 2015 for capital construction.  The proposed six-tenths mill in the tax rate results in an increase of $145 for an owner of a property with a fair market value of $500,000.

Important context – In 2016, the city millage rate was decreased from 13.57 mills to 13.17 mills.

26 thoughts on “Commission To Vote on City Millage Increase To Pay For CSD Bond and UMCH Property Upkeep”

    1. Thanks Dem. For those of us conserv-ugees who rarely respond but check in several times a day or week, your use of the phrase “death by 1,000 cuts” was perhaps the most powerful statement I’ve seen on Decatur Metro in regards to the growth of local government. I was reminded of a comment made years ago by someone from the Old Dirt Road neighborhood, who was running for the city commission and wanted my support for a bond referendum. “Your taxes will only go up $30-40 a month. Hell, that’s the cost of two or three beers at the Brick Store.”
      Death by a thousand cuts doesn’t seem so bad when you have the Brick Store so close.

  1. Love it! Basically another tax cut for me after moving two blocks outside of COD’s tax reach!

  2. Fascinating how people who don’t live in Decatur are the ones complaining about a Decatur property tax increase. I do live in Decatur and I’m not surprised taxes are going up to pay for the UMCH. I supported the decision to buy it and this news does not change my mind.

    1. The problem is many of the same folks that advocate purchases like this, knowing (hopefully) that taxes will increase, tend to be the same folks that complain about the lack of affordable housing. Then those folks ask the city to address this issue, that is partially caused by the city, by increasing government involvement yet again, which will either cost the city even more money, or cost someone their freedom (i.e. property rights).

      1. I’d be willing to bet a lot of those folks are the very same ones who just voted themselves a tax break on the backs of their neighbors who don’t happen to be 60+ years old.

        To those of you complaining about gentrification, tear downs, McMansions, etc., both you and the city council have steadfastly refused for years to even consider whether putting a ceiling, roughly equivalent to inflation, on the amount that any homeowners’ tax bill could increase each year, would provide much more stability and certainty for property owners. Unfortunately, anything that doesn’t target the special interest group of the day, just doesn’t seem to “feel” as good for a lot of Decaturites. Likewise, the continuing pace of tear downs and giant houses increase the tax digest considerably and continue to feed the insatiable appetite our city government seems to have for profligate spending on feel-good projects and empire building.

        What are they spending it on? Lately, it seems like there’s a big focus on tearing out perfectly usable lanes for vehicles. Additional boondoggles: building small homes on spec, that the free market didn’t want and ridiculous crosswalks on Ponce.

    2. IMHO, it’s radical gentrification that has made life unaffordable in the City of Decatur. The tax rate seems reasonable to me compared to similar communities around the country. But when your home value skyrockets, your taxes skyrocket, no matter what the tax rate. Not sure how we could have prevented over-gentrification but I enjoyed it when our community was a bit more modest. If I wanted to live in Marin or Westchester counties, I would have moved there.

      1. it’s all relative isn’t it. that’s not much of a sacrifice if you go out 10 times per month, but folks on a shoestring might see that trade off a little differently. i still interact with plenty of folks in parts of decatur that don’t have the luxury of that kind of choice. but they won’t be around much longer.

    3. it fascinates you that people who don’t live in Decatur have an opinion about tax dollars?i don’t live in atlanta. does that mean i should stop having opinions about the beltline, mercedes-benz stadium, the ted, etc.?

      1. To be fair, Smith wasn’t talking about them having an opinion. He just said people outside of Decatur are complaining about a Decatur-specific tax, when it has no effect on them.

  3. I don’t mind the government, the taxes, the overcrowded schools or the purchase of UMCH. I am deeply saddened however by the tear-downs of so many homes in the old neighborhoods and what I feel is the permanent degradation of the character of Decatur. Once Iush shaded streets have become halcyon heat islands with nothing but barnlike structures on a patches of sod. It also seems a terrific waste of resources especially when the houses are in perfect or even newly renovated condition. I suppose nothing can be done and we’ll either need to come to terms with, “The New Decatur” or try and find a place that is like Decatur was 20 years ago. Problem is, we and those like us will then trigger the same process there! It may be inescapable!

    1. This isn’t just a Decatur problem. It’s happening all over Atlanta too. Small to modest sized houses are torn-down to make way for large single-family homes in many older Atlanta neighborhoods as well. One way to help alleviate, not solve, the problem of this barrage of extremely expensive single-family homes would be for Decatur to abandon it’s many single-family home zoning districts and instead allow for more duplex and multifamily homes.

        1. Well, to be fair to JA, this solution addresses the problem of “extremely expensive single-family homes”. Allowing mutli-family on a currently zoned single family would probably accelerate tear downs.

        2. Tear downs will likely always happen in Decatur and throughout the US because this country has very relaxed historic preservation laws/rules. My argument is for diversifying the type of housing stock throughout Decatur. This could help create housing options at prices that are within reach to more people, no guarantees though.

  4. Beyond the talk of the Columbia Park tax increases, the city is assuming a 5% bump in the tax digest.

    Forget the tax rate for a second, it’s the total tax revenue that matters.

    This means that OUTSIDE of the Park/Acquisition, the amount of tax the city collects will INCREASE (and presumably spend) by 5%. This is the part of the budget where City Management shows a lack of discipline. Why is the city spending 2-3% MORE than inflation? If you’re at the meeting or know your commissioners, please get them to explain this. What are they spending that money on?

      1. That’s on the school property taxes. That one costs homeowners about 1.5 mills relative to what rates would be if seniors also paid.

        That one is about $350 on a $500,000 house with homestead. It initially was proposed as tax relief for “poor” seniors. Then it came out that half the homes granted exemptions were over $400,000.

        The logic then turned to “well, the benefit is that you keep a family with three kids out of the million dollar house.” However, that is just anecdotal – the city has 5,000 students out of 9,000 households. Many homeowners have two, one, or no kids. Or pet kids. Others send their kids to private school.

        At $2 million/year, the wealth transfer from working families to seniors would have to equal 285 kids per year ($7,000 local contribution each). We are not even close – it is a total giveaway. The baby boomers strike again.

        1. The city has built in increase every as the values go up.our commissioners just spend the money and ask for more

        2. Email concerning the senior tax credit is good. It does overall save our school taxes. The problem is that we still have to pay for that budget. Several months ago I sent a request to the City commissioners to consider some alternate revenues to deal with this so that the load would not be so great. The response I got was basically, we can’t do this it’s too much trouble.

          My proposal and short was to have a sales tax on houses that are sold, after all the reason that they sell for so much money is because of the schools, Ithe second revenue source is an impact fee on each bedroom that is build in the city. Again more bedrooms equal more children and school. Why not have the developers paid for their impact. Again the city was not interested. Maybe these are not the best ideas but I don’t see anyone else proposing anything at all

          1. The senior tax credit does NOT save us school taxes overall. While the anecdote about the 3 kids in a house works for a one-off works in isolation, it doesn’t add up in aggregate. I would love for someone to prove me wrong.

            The exemption cost $2 million annually in tax that senior households would have otherwise paid. The annual amount of local property tax contribution is $7,000 per student (it costs more per student, but there are state/other sources of funds as well). $2 million divided by $7,000 is 285.

            That means that the senior tax would have to preclude 285 students from attending the school system each year on an ongoing basis. There is no data to support that it does. Total enrollment is over 4,600, so that means that the reduction would reduce the total amount of students by 6%?

            That’s awfully high – there’s no way that many seniors are being either dissuaded from otherwise moving, or moving in who otherwise would have not.

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