While one resident complained that Brookhaven city council members had vowed that property taxes would never go up, city officials say the proposed millage rate for 2014 is crucial to maintain levels of service.

“When the city was formed the No. 1 concern among residents was that property taxes would go up,” said resident Matt Denton at a public hearing on June 17. “And the commitment you all made, and the reason we elected you was to make sure that didn’t happen.”

The Brookhaven City Council held its first of three public hearings on a 2014 tax increase on June 17. While the city’s proposed millage rate would hold steady at 2.85 mills, DeKalb County has reevaluated assessments, resulting in a 14 percent increase in the city’s tax digest. That means taxes are going up for citizens who property values have increased.

The preliminary gross tax digest for 2014 is $2.67 billion, up from 2013’s gross digest of $2.26 billion.

But the city won’t have official tax digest numbers until assessment appeals and exemptions come in after the city is required by law to adopt the millage rate by July 1. That delay makes city leaders nervous that a millage rollback could result in a decrease of services if the numbers come in lower that expected.

City Manager Marie Garrett said the rising tax digest reflects more people living, working and doing business in the city, and that they receive the same level of service from city departments, such as police.

“We’ve got to be able to maintain our levels of service,” she said.

Davis said decreasing the millage rate could be problematic.

“If we roll back our millage rate before we know what our revenue actually is, and then the revenue comes in just a few points less – we have 1,500 more people living in the city – not only will we have less than we had last year but we will be servicing more people. So [decreasing the millage rate] would be kind of a dangerous and irresponsible thing,” he said.

Brookhaven planned to hold a second public hearing at City Hall on June 17 at 7 p.m. and a final hearing on June 30 at 10:30 a.m. that will be followed by a vote on the final rate.

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