Not only does the City of Decatur put together a wonky, official budget each year and post it online. They also compile an easy to read Budget Narrative for all us lay people to flip through at our convenience. So take advantage!
I always like to read through the city’s bulleted lists of project, programs and policies for the coming fiscal year. So I’ve ripped them from the document and included them below for your convenience. The city separates them into the five principles from the strategic plan:
Principle A: Manage Growth While Retaining Character
- Additional bicycle racks, holiday decorations, trash and recycling bins, dog waste stations, benches, seasonal plantings (Tasks 1D and 1F)
- New Walk There signs (Task 1D)
- Tree well, MARTA plaza, crosswalk, informational kiosk maintenance (Task 1D)
- Maintenance of online business license renewals (Task 2A)
- Adopt a mobile food facility ordinance (Task 2D)
- Scottish Rite Sign Program (Task 4B)
Principle B: Encourage a Diverse and Engaged Community
- Better Together Advisory Board will engage the community to fulfill the Community Action Plan (Tasks 5B and 5C)
- Engage neighborhood leaders through the Decatur Neighborhood Alliance and the Lifelong Community Decatur Neighbors committee to encourage support between neighbors and between neighborhoods to provide community support (Tasks 5A, 5E, 6B, 7A, 7B, 7D)
- Continue to develop leadership skills and engage members of the new Decatur Youth Council as they learn about city government and our community and provide feedback on how to best meet their need (Task 7E)
- Continue to provide Open Office Hour live streaming video of City Commission members discussing topics of community interest and answering viewers’ questions live via social media, email or telephone (Task 6A)
- Implement the Foresight Augmented Reality (FAR) app to help the blind and visually impaired to navigate their way to Decatur’s shops, restaurants, and businesses (Tasks 5C, 6A, 8D)
- Explore inclusion of universal design/visibility guidelines (Task 5F)
Principle C: Serve as Good Stewards of the Environment and Community Resources
- Redevelopment of the Callaway Building and the Avondale transit oriented development will begin to come on line (Tasks 9C and 9D)
- Re-opening of the indoor pool at the Boys & Girls Club as a shared use facility (Tasks 11A and 16D)
- Completion of a Comprehensive Open Space and Shared Facilities Masterplan among community organizations, City Schools of Decatur and the City of Decatur (Tasks 10A, 11A and 16F)
- Installation of electronic fuel tracking and maintenance logging devices on city vehicles (Task 12A)
- Complete the multi-year energy conservation audit for city facilities to update sustainability policies for facilities (Tasks 10A and 12E)
- Update the City’s existing Stormwater Masterplan (Task 13B)
- Update the City’s existing Greenspace Masterplan (Task 13D)
- Refine online applications and permitting in Children and Youth Services, Active Living and Design Environment and Construction divisions (Task 10A)
- Complete improvements to the Barry Street/ downtown storm drainage project (Task 13B)
Principle D: Support a Safe, Healthy, Lifelong Community
- Resurfacing of McKoy Pool and Oakhurst tennis courts (Goal 16)
- Implementation of sidewalk improvements based on sidewalk assessment (Goal 14)
- Improvements to bicycle and pedestrian facilities including expansion of cycle tracks, sidewalks and road diet on Howard Ave (Task 14A)
- Upgrade and expand the Outdoor Tornado Warning Siren System (Goal 16)
Principle E: Provide the Necessary Support within City Government to Achieve the Vision and Goals of the Community
- Expand employee wellness program to include activities to combat obesity and diabetes (Goal II)
- Upgrade telephone system in city facilities (Goal III and VI) • Replace the fiber network connecting city facilities (Goal III and VI)
- Purchase a training simulator for use by the Police and Fire departments (Goal III)
- Deploy electronic invoicing and invoice work flow system through accounts payable software (Goal V)
- Implement recommendations and best practices from cybersecurity risk assessment (Goal VI)
- Develop and begin implementation of Decatur’s Smart City Initiative (Goal VI)
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.
From the Decatur Tax Blog…
Unofficial results from yesterday’s election show that all four proposals to expand property tax homestead exemptions in Decatur passed, including a ballot question that will exempt homeowners over the age of 65 from school taxes beginning in 2017. Voters also approved a fifth measure which eliminates an exemption that was no longer in effect.
The vote on Senate Bill 339, which increases the basic homestead exemption to exempt $25,000 in assessed value, was the most decisive result with 86 percent approval.
SB 340, which increases the amount of assessed value exempted for homeowners over the age of 65, passed by 83 percent.
Voters favored the creation of a new exemption under SB 342 for homeowners over 62 with income under $50,000.
SB 343, the senior school tax exemption, proved to be the most controversial of the measures, but still passed handily at 75 percent.
Homeowners in Decatur who currently have the existing age 65 homestead exemption, the “GH2,” will be granted the new school exemption automatically in 2017. Homeowners with the basic homestead exemption do not have to reapply to receive the increased exemption amount; that will also be granted automatically. The City of Decatur will provide further guidance to homeowners on how and when to apply for the new exemption under SB 342 after the election results have been certified.
Photo courtesy of City of Decatur website
From The Decatur Minute…
Decatur’s Lifelong Community Advisory Board’s Taxation and Affordability Committee is hosting a Third Thursday information session for City of Decatur residents to learn more about the new homestead exemptions that will come up for vote on the November 8 ballot. Please join us on Thursday, October 20, 6:30 p.m., at Decatur Recreation Center, 231 Sycamore Street, to learn more about the exemptions.
A panel from City Schools of Decatur and City of Decatur will answer questions and provide information about these five homestead exemptions. One of them is an exemption from school property taxes for homeowners over the age of 65—an exemption that expires in five years when it will be re-evaluated.
For more information about the Decatur for a Lifetime initiative or the board, contact[email protected] or 678-553-6548.
Photo courtesy of City of Decatur website
Decatur’s Communication Specialist Renae Madison sends along this announcement…
At their regular meeting on May 16, 2016, the Decatur City Commission adopted a tentative millage rate of 10.68 mills for general operations, capital improvements and downtown development authority operations. This is a reduction from the 2015 millage rate of 11.08 mills; however due to property reassessments, this will represent an average increase of 2.91% in property taxes. This increase is consistent with new development and home sale data tracked by the City. The State’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights requires that this increase be advertised. For property that was not reassessed, there should be a decrease in property taxes.
The Decatur City Commission will hold public hearings regarding this issue on Monday, June 6, 2016 at 7:30 p.m.; Monday, June 13, 2016 at 6:00 p.m.; and, Monday, June 20, 2016 at 7:30pm. The final millage will be set at the Decatur City Commission meeting scheduled for Monday, June 20, 2016. All meetings are held in the City Commission Meeting room, Decatur City Hall, 509 N. McDonough Street, Decatur. For more information, contact Meredith Roark, Budget & Performance Measurement Manager or Andrea Arnold, Assistant City Manager at (404) 370-4102 or visit the City’s website at www.decaturga.com/budget.
Photo courtesy of City of Decatur website
If you pay attention to your County tax bill, you may have noticed the millage has fluctuated quite a bit over the last few years. Though it’s certainly possible, that fluctuation was overshadowed by our recent reassessments.
The AJC reports that county taxes for Decatur residents increased 5% last year.
But in CEO Lee May’s budget draft for the upcoming year, all DeKalb city residents would see a decline in their county tax rate, according to the AJC. In Decatur, the rate would drop 15% from 2015 to 10.08 mils. All other DeKalb cities would also experience a 10%-17% decline in their millage, with Atlanta DeKalb residents receiving the most relief.
Hey, it’s not going to be a ton cash, but every little bit helps these days!
Decatur residents only pay for select DeKalb services with their taxes. Prior to 2010, city residents were “double-taxed” on some county services they didn’t utilize, like basic police protection – since Decatur has it’s own police force. Decatur helped lead the way to change state legislation that allowed cities to opt out of certain services, which the commission did for the first time back in 2010. History lesson over!
The DeKalb County Commission is scheduled to vote on the budget by the end of February 2016.
Image courtesy of Google Streetview