Lee May

DeKalb County Interim CEO Lee May highlighted two declining numbers during a town hall meeting in Tucker on June 8 —the number of days residents soon will see garbage pickups each week and the county’s proposed millage rate.

The latter number drew more discussion at the meeting, the first of eight such events scheduled across the county this summer. About 30 community members came to the Reid H. Cofer Library to hear May and county leaders share details about several county happenings, including the 2015 mid-year budget May outlined last week.

Under the budget proposal, DeKalb could see its millage rate decrease from 21.21 to 20.81. The proposed 0.4-mill reduction, if approved, would be the county’s first tax rate decrease since 2004.

“[A millage reduction of] 0.4 is really the maximum threshold that we could sustain, while also allowing us to continue to make sure our fund balance was in good shape,” May said during his presentation.

“What we’ve done is looked at our budget now, put some assumptions in place in terms of what we believe our expenditure level will be throughout and all of our funds for the next three years, and we wanted to make sure at the end of three years, the end of 2018, that we would still have across all funds, one month operating funding in reserves.

“That [millage rate] allowed us to do that.”

Though the proposed rate decrease could lead to some residents seeing lower tax bills, those whose properties are assessed at higher values could end up paying more despite the lower rate. Lou Brown, CEO of Certified Affordable Housing Provider, asked May how the proposed millage reduction took into account properties that received much higher assessments.

Brown said his company has about 100 properties in DeKalb, which on average were given assessments that were more than 37 percent higher than the previous tax year.

“Since our properties are all over the county, if they increased everyone commensurate to that, then it seems like to me, they’re going to have a whole lot more money than a little bit more money … so therefore they should be reducing the millage rate a whole lot more,” Brown said after Monday’s meeting.

Officials said that while pockets of the county may have seen assessments go up 30 or 40 percent, DeKalb’s estimated tax digest for 2015 of $24.727 billion represents a smaller overall increase—a 9.7 percent jump from the previous year.

The county’s Board of Tax Assessors sent out annual assessment notices last month. Residents who do not agree with the current year value displayed on their assessments have 45 days to appeal. More information on the appeal process can be found on the county’s website.

May also talked about changes coming to the county’s sanitation collection service. Residents in unincorporated DeKalb and those who reside in the cities of Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Lithonia who receive sanitation collection service from the county will see their trash picked up just once a week starting the week of July 6. Solid waste, recyclable materials and yard trimmings will be collected on the same day.

Officials say the reduction from the current twice-a-week schedule along with other improved efficiencies will reduce the county’s costs to provide sanitation service. Fees for residential customers will remain steady as a result of the decreased costs.

More details about the changes to the county’s sanitation collection program can be found at rollingforwardtoone.com.

May’s next town hall meeting will be held Wednesday at Dunwoody City Hall, 41 Perimeter East, in Dunwoody, with the following meeting set for June 22 at Brookhaven City Hall, 4362 Peachtree Road, in Brookhaven. Both of those gatherings are scheduled from 7 p.m. until 8:30 p.m.

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.

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