DeKalb Budget Targets Gentrification, Improves Housing Affordability

$131 million in property tax relief approved

The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners approved CEO Michael Thurmond’s proposed Fiscal Year 2019 midyear budget which includes property tax relief for homeowners in gentrifying neighborhoods. Commissioners voted unanimously in favor of the amended midyear budget proposal.

“DeKalb County’s property tax relief plan will help mitigate the negative impact of rising home values and property taxes in our rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods,” said CEO Thurmond.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gentrification is defined as the transformation of neighborhoods from low value to high value. Displacement occurs when longtime or original neighborhood residents move from a gentrified area because of higher rents, mortgages, and property taxes.

Thurmond added, “The EHOST credit significantly reduces property tax liability, which is a major contributor to problems associated with gentrification and declining affordability.  Senior citizens and fixed and low-income homeowners challenged by gentrification will be the primary beneficiaries of our tax relief package.”

DeKalb County’s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) is the only local sales tax measure in the state of Georgia that exempts food and drugs from the 1 cent sales tax levy. Therefore, the regressive impact of the sales tax on seniors and fixed and low-income residents, who spend a disproportionate amount of their disposable income on essential items, is abated.

DeKalb homeowners will benefit from $119 million in property tax relief generated by the Equalized Homestead Option Sales Tax Credit (EHOST). The EHOST tax credit will deliver an average tax cut of $889 to owners of homes valued at $250,000.

The county will also roll back the Combined Countywide Operational rate, from 10.364 mills in Fiscal Year 2018 to 9.952 mills in Fiscal Year 2019, reducing the rate by 0.412 mills. The projected value of the millage rate rollback is $12 million, which will provide a property tax reduction of $41.20 on properties valued at $250,000. The benchmark millage rate for unincorporated DeKalb will remain at 20.81 mills.

DeKalb County’s Fiscal Year 2019 midyear budget includes the following adjustments:

  • Fire Rescue: $576,456 for partial year funding of 20 paramedic positions to staff three ambulance units to be deployed throughout the county; a net increase of $633,603 to fund maintenance and repair at fire stations, medical supplies, and six vehicles for new fire inspector positions.
  • Parks and Recreation: $733,890 for additional landscape and path maintenance, expansion of the youth STEAM program, and the development of a ten-year parks master plan.
  • Beautification and Code Compliance: Beautification and Code Compliance will become standalone budget units. An additional $275,000 was recommended for Beautification to service 36 new locations from September to December.
  • DeKalb Emergency Management Agency: $92,393 for funding of additional personnel.
  • 311 Citizen Help Center: $69,273 for partial year funding of additional full-time customer service representatives due to increased call volumes.
  • Facilities Management: $1.1 million for facilities repairs and maintenance.

The County’s Fiscal Year 2019 midyear operating budget is $1.3 billion and projects an end-of-year tax fund balance, or rainy-day fund, of $110 million. This amount will cover county operations for 2.02 months, which accomplishes one of the administration’s top fiscal priorities — building reserve revenues that will finance two months of county operations.

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