The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners voted today,  July 19, to kill putting a referendum for proposed sales tax increases on the November ballot after questions were raised that doing so would likely eliminate a longstanding property tax freeze.

County and city elected officials began asking questions late last week about wording in House Bill 596, a bill intended to extend a homestead property valuation freeze.

The word “tolled” is used in the bill  — meaning if the sales tax referendums, a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax and Equalized Homestead Option Sales Tax were approved by voters in November, the property tax freeze would disappear, according to legal analysis from county and state officials.

If the General Assembly enacts an equalized homestead option sales and use tax and such tax is placed into effect in DeKalb County during the period the exemption granted by subsection (b) of this section is in effect, the exemption granted by subsection (b) of this section shall be tolled for as long as the equalized homestead option sales and use tax is in effect.

The penny tax was to be used to fund infrastructure projects, including the paving of roads.

As part of the process to get the referendums on the ballot, DeKalb County sought Intergovernmental Agreements (IGA) and resolutions of support for the SPLOST and E-HOST referendums from municipalities, including Brookhaven and Dunwoody.

The Dunwoody City Council deferred its vote on July 11, before the tax freeze questions were raised, because council members wanted to wait to see how the BOC would vote at its July 19 meeting.

On July 18, at a special called meeting after the property tax freeze questions were raised, the Dunwoody City Council voted again to defer voting on the measures.

The Brookhaven City Council voted July 12 to support the IGA and resolution, but on on July 19, the day of the Board of Commissioners vote, Mayor John Ernst issued a statement that the council was urging the BOC to vote against the referendums.

“Considerable concern has been raised over the past few days regarding language contained in House Bill 596. This bill, if approved by voters, would serve to suspend the DeKalb Homestead Valuation Freeze if SPLOST and E-HOST are also approved by voters in November,” Ernst said.

“While most citizens of Brookhaven would have gotten a net tax decrease, the poorly written legislation did not give clarity on the effects,” he said. “In light of those concerns and in an abundance of caution, the city of Brookhaven urges the Board of Commissioners to reject the referendum.”

Dyana Bagby

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.