Mayor Eric Clarkson

If all goes well, the city of Chamblee may be able to reduce its tax rate this year, Mayor Eric Clarkson said in his “State of the City” message.

“My hope is that the millage number can come down,” Clarkson told members of the Chamblee Business Association on Feb. 17. “It’s a shame we’ve had to balance our budget on the backs of our property owners. I think it’s time for it to come back down.”

Clarkson said the city historically had imposed a tax rate of about 5 mills, but that in recent years the rate had risen to cover city costs. The millage now is 7.95, he said. Taxes are calculated by multiplying a property’s assessed value by the millage. A new city tax millage will be set in May or June, the mayor said.

Chamblee city officials may be able to reduce the millage, he said, because the city is rebuilding its reserves to acceptable levels. In recent years, the reserves had fallen to near zero, he said, but this year the city’s reserves reached $1.7 million.

The budget projects revenues of about $13.7 million and expenditures of about $13 million, he said, meaning the city can add about $700,000 to its reserves. Clarkson said the total could still be below the amount city officials would want to keep in reserve funds. He said the reserve should equal about a quarter of the operating budget.

“One thing the city of Chamblee has always done is be fiscally responsible,” Clarkson said after the speech. “We intend to keep it that way.”

Clarkson said the annexation that took effect Jan. 1 will increase the population of the city by about 50 percent, to about 18,000 from about 12,000. The area annexed increases the size of the city to about 5 square miles from about 3.5 square miles, he said.

The city added 12 police officers, four communication officers and employees in public works in order to provide services to the area, he said. The city now has 104 employees, he said.

Residents of the annexed area began getting city services except garbage pickup on Jan. 1. The city contracted with DeKalb County to continue garbage pickups in the area for up to three years.