Brookhaven City Council has adopted the city’s first budget, but acknowledges the plan is still a work in progress.
At a March 26 meeting, council members combated rumors that the city would raise taxes, explaining that the tax millage will not be set until June.
Before the budget adoption, many Brookhaven residents received anonymous, prerecorded phone calls and postcards claiming that city taxes and utility fees would be increasing.
City Councilman Joe Gebbia said he and the other council members are committed to not raising property taxes above the level residents paid last year as part of unincorporated DeKalb County.
“It’s a shame some of the information that’s being put out there is just a lack of knowledge about what the truth is,” Gebbia said.
Mayor J. Max Davis pointed out the city’s charter caps the city millage at 3.35 mills. The taxes on a property are determined by multiplying the millage times the assessed value of the property, minus any allowable exemptions such as homestead exemptions.
Financial consultant Chris Pike said the budget likely will be adjusted several times during 2013. “This is a fluid document over the course of this year. You will encounter unintended issues as well as things you saw coming down the line,” Pike said.
Of the nearly $16.5 million budget that was approved, $4 million is allocated to Finance and Administration, $4.3 million is set aside for contingency for future projects, and $2.6 million is reserved for setting up the city’s police department.
The budget calls for a tax rate of 3.35 mills. But that millage will not be adopted until DeKalb County sets the tax digest, or the value of taxable property within the county.
“The amount in here right now is for lack of a better word a ‘placeholder,’” Pike said.
Davis said he is hopeful that the city will be able to lower its tax rate once the digest is set.
“There’s a lot of moving parts to this tax bill,” said Councilwoman Rebecca Chase Williams.
She pointed out that DeKalb County still controls tax assessments, homestead exemptions, and the portion of the Homestead Option Sales Tax or HOST, that Brookhaven will receive.
“These are facts we really have no control over. The bulk of your money will still go to DeKalb County,” she said. “Our portion of about 3 mills is what we’re working hard to control.”
According to a news release, Brookhaven anticipates receiving $5 million in real property taxes, $3.5 million from HOST, $400,000 in personal property taxes and $350,000 in motor vehicle taxes, along with $1.8 million in business and occupation taxes, and $1.3 million in franchise fees.
Councilman Jim Eyre pointed out that due to several revenue streams the city will not be able to collect until 2014, the first year’s budget is lower than it will be in the future. He said regardless of the challenges, the city was able to set aside money to start a police force this year.
“Even with reduced revenue we have an almost $5 million reserve,” Eyre said. “That obviously is money we will choose to spend very wisely.”