DeKalb commissioners approve 2018 millage, increase for most cities

Members of the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners. AJC file photo. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM
Members of the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners. AJC file photo. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

Right before the DeKalb Board of Commissioners approved millage rates on Tuesday, member Kathie Gannon asked for one last assurance that no one’s tax rate would go up this year.

Presiding officer Jeff Rader chose his words carefully.

“The net impact is that the millage rate for unincorporated DeKalb will remain at the same level,” he said.

What he didn't mention is that commissioners were approving a higher millage rate for property owners in 11 of DeKalb's 13 cities. These municipalities, representing about a fourth of all DeKalb property owners, will see their county tax rate increase an average of .51 mills.

That hike would roughly add about $51 to the bill of a home with a $100,000 taxable value.

However, tax bills vary widely from owner to owner, and residents won’t know how much they owe until they receive their statements in August.

Tuesday’s vote will bring the county rate between 10.69 and 14.351 mills, depending on the city. Because the county millage for unincorporated DeKalb, Stonecrest and Tucker remains the same at 20.81, Rader and Gannon both said they felt comfortable saying they had not raised taxes.

“What I’m voting for is the aggregate unincorporated millage rate,” Gannon said after Tuesday’s vote.

The amount of taxes property owners pay each year is based in part on millage rates set by county, city and school officials. The millage is the amount per $1,000 of property value that is used to calculate taxes.

When elected officials raise millage or when the value of property rises, then the amount property owners pay in taxes go up. Various exemptions and freezes can lower the tax burden.

DeKalb voters also approved a new a 1-percent EHOST sales tax that will reduce property taxes countywide.

Several spoke during public comment and criticized DeKalb officials for hiking the general fund millage by .945, which is the root cause for the increases in most cities.

Chris Harris said the county sold EHOST to voters in 2017 as a way to reduce property taxes and the millage rate. He said he was disappointed to receive legal notices about the general fund rate increase, which county officials said is needed because the cost of providing basic services has gone up.

“It almost feels like we were lied to just to get us the vote for that,” Horner said.

DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond said that even if the tax rate increases for some property owners, the EHOST will offset that and still cause many homeowners to pay less. The legal ad, which focuses on changes in the general fund millage, provides a limited picture, he said.

“A millage rate is just one component as to how you determine what your tax liability would be or can be, and you really won’t know until your tax bill is sent out in August what your actual tax burden will be,” Thurmond said.

In addition to approving the millage rate, DeKalb commissioners also signed off on a midyear budget amendment that added money to the county's rainy-day fund. They also approved nearly $900,000 in new spending within the court system, a study of the Memorial Drive business corridor, parks and recreation and a program to address illegal dumping.

The DeKalb Board of Commissioners approved 2018 millage rates. Property owners in unincorporated DeKalb, Stonecrest and Tucker will pay the same county millage as last year, but in 11 cities the rate is higher.

City 2017 rate 2018 rate difference

DeKalb unincorporated 20.81 20.81 0

Atlanta 9.86 10.692 0.832

Avondale Estates 13.119 13.547 0.428

Brookhaven 13.307 13.784 0.477

Chamblee 13.013 13.447 0.434

Clarkston 13.663 14.059 0.396

Decatur 9.955 10.781 0.826

Doraville 12.94 13.379 0.439

Dunwoody 13.307 13.784 0.477

Lithonia 13.813 14.25 0.437

Pine Lake 13.92 14.351 0.431

Stone Mountain 13.074 13.505 0.431

Stonecrest 20.81 20.81 0

Tucker 20.81 20.81 0

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