Brookhaven’s budget proposal includes roughly $16 million for the new city’s first year of operations as officials continue to work with DeKalb County to hammer out final costs for police coverage and parks.
“As was expected, our first year budget revenues are significantly less than they will be in our first full year of operations and revenue projected for 2014,” Mayor J. Max Davis said in a budget memorandum.
Davis recommended adopting the maximum millage rate of 3.35 mills allowed in the city’s charter.“Though my preference is a lower millage rate, I do not feel that would be a responsible recommendation for our first year due to the high level of demands from years of neglect, the significant revenue sources not received until 2014, a troubled real estate market just starting to rebound and the unknown expenses we may face during our first year,” Davis said.
Council members said they are pleased with what they called a conservative budget.
“I’m very glad to see we’re able to have a balanced budget and have room in there for contingencies,” Councilman Bates Mattison said.
Councilman Jim Eyre said he thinks this budget will get the city on firm footing and lay the groundwork for future improvements. “I think it’s a budget that allows us to do what we need to, but certainly doesn’t have excess capacity to do what we’d want to,” Eyre said. “We’ve always said this is a long-term proposition. Over the long term, we’ll see some real improvements.”
The proposal is lower than the annual revenues of more than $20 million estimated in the feasibility study conducted by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia.
“What the [Carl Vinson Institute] study presented was a city that was fully operational Year 1 – all revenue sources for the entire year and all expenses for the entire year,” Mattison said.
“What we’re dealing with in this year’s budget is reality. We’re in a ramp-up period in obtaining revenue for our city.”
Councilwoman Rebecca Chase Williams said city officials used numbers from the institute’s study, surrounding cities, and DeKalb County to create Brookhaven’s first budget.
Williams said city officials always knew Brookhaven would not receive revenue from franchise fees or insurance premiums taxes, which would account for millions of dollars, in the first year.
DeKalb County officials are in the midst of their own budget preparations and haven’t determined what portion of the HOST sales tax funds will be allocated to cities. The Brookhaven budget anticipates $3.5 million from HOST, but Williams said that is a low estimate.
“It’s better for us to not count on that money until we know for sure,” Williams said.