Your property taxes will be going up this fall if the county commission adopts a recommendation by the budget committee.
In a meeting Tuesday night, members of the budget committee voted to recommend passage of a new $40.9 million budget for the 2015-16 year and a tax rate of $1.78 cents per $100 of assessed value. That's a sixteen cent increase from the current rate of $1.62.
The proposed new rate breaks down as follows:
County General Fund: 94 cents (a 12 cent increase)
General Purpose Schools: 57 cents ( a 2 cent increase)
Debt Service: 12 cents
County Highway Department: 4 cents ( a 1 cent increase)
Capital Projects Fund: 11 cents ( a 1 cent increase)
The last time the county commission raised taxes was in 2011 when a ten cent hike was imposed with five cents of the increase going to schools and the other nickel to help fund the county general budget.
Steve Bates, the county's financial advisor, said the increase is needed because county revenues in recent years have not kept pace with inflation. "There's not really any expenditures that are above last year. It's just inflation. It's just that the cost of government has increased and revenues haven't been able to keep up. We have been budgeting on a budgetary basis going into cash (fund balance) and although we haven't been expecting to go into cash that deep, we have been going into cash (using reserves). All we want to try to do is head that off so we can maintain our good fund balances that we have now," Bates told WJLE
"During 2009 and 2010 property assessments did not grow because of this housing and financial crisis so while the cost of government was growing, assessments were declining. We were actually going backwards. And to further that, we were earning 2% and 3% on fund balances. Now we're earning .2% so that's another tax cut. As recent as three years ago, the county earned $360,000. This year we have budgeted $150,000 and I just hope we get that, "Bates added.
All five members of the budget committee voted to recommend the new budget and tax rate for approval to the county commission. Members of the committee are Chairman Wayne Cantrell and Larry Summers, Jack Barton, Jimmy Midgett, and Jerry Adcock.
County Mayor Tim Stribling said copies of the proposed budget will be made available to all members of the county commission during an all-committees meeting on Tuesday, July 7 at 6:00 p.m. in the downstairs courtroom of the courthouse. As required by law, a public notice will be published on Wednesday, July 15 in the newspaper. A public hearing will then be scheduled on Monday, July 27 at 5:30 p.m. followed by the regular monthly meeting of the county commission at which time the new budget and tax rate will be considered for passage. The meeting and public hearing will be held in the downstairs courtroom of the courthouse.
Two other issues were addressed during Tuesday night's meeting. The committee voted to use $25,000 from the capital projects fund as "seed" money for future development of a new fire station in the Four Seasons community.
Meanwhile, whether the county will match the city's $75,000 allocation of funds for the development of a new animal shelter will be left up to the entire 14 member county commission. Budget committee member Jack Barton initially made a motion to include the money in the budget, but only as a one time contribution. The committee sided with Barton on a vote of 3-1-1. But later during the meeting, committee members had a change of heart and the action was rescinded. While funds for the animal shelter will not be included in the proposed budget, Barton said he will ask that the county commission give it an up or down vote as only a one time contribution after the new budget is adopted. "I feel they (DeKalb Animal Coalition) are due an answer. Since the city has put it out there on the table, I want us as a body to give them an answer up or down," said Barton. Chairman Cantrell moved that the budget and tax rate of $1.78 be adopted and to address the animal shelter issue after the budget is passed. Cantrell's motion was approved unanimously.