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 Voters also approved a fifth measure which eliminates an exemption that was no longer in effect.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
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
A recent op-ed on Decaturish by Former Atlanta COO and Decatur resident Hans Utz recently got some appreciation in FFAF regarding its explanation of the city’s debt cap. As such, it seemed a good article to highlight and discuss here, since we so enjoy discussions that involve such thrilling topics as debt and enrollment figures.
In short, it helps spell out…
- Why city debt is necessary – to spread the cost of projects out over time so future residents also get to pay in
- The different forms of Decatur’s debt
- The city’s revenue bonds – taken out against non-property tax forms of revenue
- CSD’s certificates of participation – “like a homeowner taking out a second mortgage”
- “GO bonds” – which are borrowed against property taxes
- Which forms of debt apply to the “Constitutional Debt Cap” of $137 million – only the Go Bonds
- Where Decatur would stand if it were to borrow the full $82 million in Go Bonds to build new/larger schools
- Watch these mathrobatics – The city currently has borrowed $31 million and CSD has borrowed $5 million in Go Bonds, so add the requested $82+ the current $36 = $118 million. And what was that limit again? $137 million? So $137 – $118 = $19 million!
Is that $19 million gap risky? Mr. Utz’s states…
Incidentally, the constitutional debt limit is itself a conservative ceiling meant to prevent fiscally weak or irresponsible municipalities from overextending themselves. Decatur is neither.
Ultimately, Mr. Utz’s argues that Decatur shouldn’t be all that worried about its debt cap with this bond proposal and that the major concern should be the very real increase to taxes as a result of the bond – he calculates it as a 7% increase on Decatur property taxes.
So are we in a bad place with debt? No, not at all. Not even a little bit. Not even if the schools do get an additional $82 million in capital. We should stay vigilant, of course, but we are operating well within our capacity.
The question is whether we think the schools need the capital sufficiently enough for us to willingly to increase our overall property tax by 7 percent. That is a big conversation that we must have as a community.
Oh how nice it would be if we still had the old Ponce de Leon School on West Ponce. (Hence the random-ish Ponce de Leon School photo courtesy of Ponce de Leon Elementary Facebook page 🙂 )
A post by Bill Banks over at the AJC yesterday says that DeKalb is currently planning to raise county taxes on cities in the coming fiscal year, while holding resident taxes in unincorporated DeKalb flat with the previous year.
A table below the post details the potential impact to all of DeKalb’s individual cities, with Decatur’s county taxes set to rise 32% vs. 2014, but up 5.2% vs. 2013, since the cities all saw a tax cut this past year. Avondale residents would see a 25.2% increase vs. 2014 and a -9.2 decline vs. 2013.
According to Banks, the Commission is set to vote on the county’s budget and tax rate by the end of February 2015.
On Monday, the Decatur City Commission will vote to extend current homestead exemptions of all residential property owners with a focus on Decatur residents 62 and older. They will also vote to create a new exemption for seniors older than 62 with income less than $50,000. The specifics are as follows according to a note from City Manager Peggy Merriss to the commission…
- Increase the General Homestead Exemption for all residential owner-occupied properties from $20,000 to $25,000.
- Increase the General Homestead Exemption – B for residential owner-occupied properties 65 years of age or older from $1,000 to $10,000.
- Create a General Homestead Exemption – C for residential owner-occupied properties 62 years of age or older whose household income does not exceed $50,000 in the amount of $15,000.
The city commission asked city staff to investigate the possibility of expanding homestead exemptions in the last fiscal year. (The idea was also discussed on DM back in August in reaction to the diversity project.)
Ms. Merriss’ letter states that the annual tax deduction on a $400,000 home would be approximately $60 for a resident homeowner who doesn’t meet any other qualifications and $340 for a homeowner who meets all the aforementioned qualifications.
Decatur sent out this announcement this morning…
At their regular meeting on May 19, 2014, the Decatur City Commission adopted a tentative millage rate of 13.00 mills for general operations, capital improvements, bonded indebtedness and downtown development authority operations. This is the same as the 2013 millage rate; however due to property reassessments, this will represent an average increase of 6.62% in property taxes. This increase is consistent with new development and home sale data tracked by the City for the past three years. The State’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights requires that this increase be advertised. For property that was not reassessed there should be no increase in property taxes.
The Decatur City Commission will hold public hearings regarding this issue on Monday, June 2, 2014 at 7:30 p.m.; Monday, June 9, 2014 at 6:00 p.m.; and, Monday, June 16, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. The final millage will be set at the Decatur City Commission meeting scheduled for Monday, June 16, 2014. 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.
DeKalb County Commisser Jeff Rader’s afternoon announcement that the County will host three public hearings (Tuesday, July 5 at 10 a.m. & 6 p.m., and on Tuesday, July 12 at 10 a.m.) on the proposed 4.5 mill tax increase includes a nifty breakdown on what that will mean for the different DeKalb municipalities. Here ’tis…
2011 Rollback Rate % Increase
Atlanta 10.39 8.938 16.25%
Avondale Estates 15.41 13.464 14.45%
Chamblee 13.71 12.223 12.17%
Clarkston 15.06 13.242 13.73%
Decatur 10.82 10.087 7.27%
Doraville 13.60 12.607 7.88%
Dunwoody 13.35 11.357 17.55%
Lithonia 15.33 13.280 15.44%
Pine Lake 15.61 13.541 15.28%
Stone Mountain 13.90 12.980 7.09%
Unincorporated 19.62 18.017 8.90%
Countywide Debt 1.08 0.647 66.92%
Unincorporated Debt 0.66 1.631 -59.53%