As Brookhaven prepares to approve its first budget, some officials are angry that a councilman told constituents a tax hike could be on the way.
In a Feb. 25 email addressed to some of the neighborhood associations in District 2, Councilman Jim Eyre wrote “It became apparent during our City Council work session yesterday the 2013 budget that Mayor Davis put forth for the City of Brookhaven (CoB) includes a millage rate for 2013 that would represent a substantial increase from the net property tax amount paid in 2012.”
Comparing his 2012 tax bill to the proposed rate for 2013, Eyre said he would pay 71 percent more in taxes this year.
At the Council’s Feb. 25 work session, Councilwoman Rebecca Chase Williams said she was disappointed by Eyre’s email, which she said included an “alarmist claim” that the city would have a tax increase.
“The problem is there are a lot of moving parts and a lot is subject to change. DeKalb still hasn’t passed their yearly budget for this year so we don’t know,” Williams said.
Eyre said he wanted to let people know that the council will have some tough decisions to make during its first year.
“My intent was to be open and honest with the citizens and see if we could drive some interest in the public hearing,” Eyre said.
Mayor J. Max Davis called the email inappropriate and misleading.
“It was shocking to me,” Davis said. “Your email was clear there was a tax increase and we don’t have any idea if there’s a shortfall. We’re not a tabloid newspaper trying to sell papers.”
Davis said there are several factors, including the amount of sales tax revenue the city will receive from DeKalb County, that are still unclear. He said there will be two more occasions to review and adjust the budget in 2013.
Councilman Bates Mattison said he is confident City Council would find a way to avoid a tax hike if a shortfall becomes a reality. He said one of the main reasons residents voted to incorporate a city was the promise of better services at the same or lower tax rate.
“The last thing we want to convey is we’ve created a city and now you’re going to have a higher tax burden,” Mattison said.
Brookhaven will hold a public hearing on the fiscal year 2013 budget at 7 p.m. Feb. 26 in Lupton Hall at Oglethorpe University.