The City Council on June 18 approved a 2.74 millage rate for 2018, the same rate approved since the city was founded more than a decade ago. But there was some discussion this year whether to consider rolling back property taxes for residents as the city’s tax digest continues to grow.
The 2.74 millage rate – which is $2.74 for every $1,000 of assessed value of property – applies to homeowners and businesses. In the past year, the city’s property tax digest increased 13.45 percent, bringing in about $1 million more in revenue than last year. Councilmember John Heneghan, however, asked if it was time for a discussion by the council on whether to give residents a city tax break.
“Once the valuations get above 10 percent, I think it’s a conversation worth having,” Heneghan said June 18.
“It’s a philosophical discussion we need to have,” he added, saying he supported a 10 percent rollback to a 2.67 millage rate. Keeping the current millage rate could add close to $50 in city taxes to the bill for some homeowners, Heneghan said.
“At what point do we as a council consider rolling back the millage rate?” he asked. He said the new revenue could be possibly dedicated to public safety needs, such as improved police radios and better EMS service.
Accounting Manager Amy King explained to the council June 11 that only 5 percent of the property tax digest increase comes from residential properties; the other 95 percent comes from commercial properties.
Those in Dunwoody who have owned their homes since 2009 have had an assessment freeze on their property and have paid the same city tax rate for the past nine years. Their property taxes only go up if the home or property is improved or if they buy a new home.
Councilmember Lynn Deutsch said the city’s portion of residents’ property tax bill is about 5 percent of the total About 70 percent of the bill goes to schools and another nearly 30 goes to DeKalb County.
The 13.45 percent property tax digest increase is created mostly by commercial properties, such as State Farm’s regional headquarters under construction in Perimeter Center. Another office building and hotel are also on the books to begin construction this year.
“The increase is not coming from the average homeowner,” Deutsch said. “If we roll back, we have to decide what services we do not want to provide.”
A 10 percent rollback, for example, may save a homeowner $20 to $60 a year, she said. If the city were to do a rollback, it should be in a much more significant way, she added.
There are also services the city must provide to the more than 100,000 people who work in Dunwoody every day, she said.
At the June 11 public hearing on the millage rate, Mayor Denis Shortal said a family living in a home assessed at $400,000 pays about $260 a year in city taxes.
“That’s about $22 a month,” he said. “That’s extremely, extremely reasonable, when you think of the services we provide.”
Shortal also noted that inflation goes up each year, which means costs of projects that have been on the books, like paving and park improvements, also continue to rise.
“Money in the bank is a good thing,” Shortal said. “We promised to keep taxes low when we became a city. We didn’t say we would roll them lower. I think our tax rate is reasonable.”
Two residents did speak out against keeping the current millage rate the same at the June 11 meeting.
“I’m opposed to maintaining the same millage rate,” said resident Bob Hickey. “The tax digest has gone up significantly … and maintaining it is a violation of what we were promised when we incorporated.”
Cheryl Summers also questioned why there was no rollback of her property taxes, saying her current property taxes do not offset the 1 percent special local option sales tax approved by voters last year.
“[The city] has promised for several years the millage rate would go down … but there is always some excuse not to reduce,” she said.