DeKalb County’s sanitation department lowered its fees for home-based business owners in March, but Dunwoody residents who work from home say they’re still paying too much.
Adrienne Duncan said she noticed on her latest tax bill that DeKalb County sanitation assessed a $300 fee, which she said was lower than what she paid in 2014.
“But they’re still higher than other single family residences due to the blue slip of paper over my desk,” Duncan said. “The additional charge was tantamount to a fine, simply for holding a business license.”
DeKalb sanitation officials considered Duncan’s property “commercial” despite the residential zoning designation and automatically issued larger trash cans, Duncan said. “For all the extra trash not being produced,” she said.
Another resident, Barry Kanne, said his in-home business doesn’t create excess trash that would warrant paying more in sanitation fees.
“I can assure you that in our house we are well served with the current, once per week [trash pickup] schedule,” Kanne said. “Our business deals with writing medically-based journalism. Not much of a sanitation load there.”
Kanne said he learned that earlier in the year DeKalb County government made an open records request for a listing of all Dunwoody Occupational Tax Certificate holders —business owners — who listed a residential address.
“They were gathering data to charge an increased rate to those residential property owners who happened to comply with the Dunwoody law and had obtained a business license although they (sanitation officials) were not delivering any additional services for the increased fee,” Kanne said.
Pauline Andrea, a spokesperson for DeKalb County, emailed Kanne to say the Sanitation Department could not change or waive the fees because they were approved by the Board of Commissioners in March.
Andrea said the old fee for a home-based business added $135 to the $265 fee charged residents, making the total fee $400 a year. The additional fee was reduced to $35 when DeKalb went to once weekly trash pickups this summer, so the total fee for home-based businesses now is $300 a year.
Commissioner Nancy Jester said she agrees the excess fees for home-based businesses that don’t generate excess waste are unnecessary. She said about a handful of people expressed frustration with the fee and Jester said she knows that means more people who haven’t spoken up are upset.
“It sounded silly for them to have to pay that for being an editor or computer programmer,” Jester said.
Because the Board of Commissioners approved the $35 commercial sanitation fee for residential businesses in March, Jester said legislation would have to be written and approved by the BOC to change the fee structure.
Jester said she plans to work on legislation to change the fee, but would have to consult legal experts. Some in-home businesses, such as woodworkers or caterers, would create more trash, so Jester said she wants to find a way to make the fees charged fair.
Jester said she could have something to present to the BOC by October.
Kanne said he wants a fair assessment from the county and not to have to pay a fee simply for having a business.
“The reason I’m getting nailed with that charge is because I’m complying with the city’s business license requirement,” he said.