A resident of DeKalb County for more than 25 years, Mary Ann Brown said she adamantly opposed any millage rate increase.
“I have not gotten an increase in my retirement in over two years,” Brown said. “I can’t afford any tax increase. I have to cut my budget.”
Another resident, Blue Anderson said the county needs to cut services and employees.
“You’re going to have to cut personnel,” Anderson said. “If you made a 30 percent cut in employees, you wouldn’t miss a one of them.
“You are gong to have to start operating this county as a business and not as a charity,” Anderson said.
Brown and Anderson were two of the residents who participated in two July 5 public hearings on the county’s proposed tax increase.
After receiving a recommendation by DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis, the board voted last month to advertise a millage rate increase of up to 4.5 mills. Although Ellis’ latest budget proposal requires a 4.35-mill increase, the 4.5 mills would give the commissioners flexibility if they decided the amount was needed in the final budget. Based on a 4.5-mill increase, an average home valued at $155,700 would pay $672 in county property taxes.
Bob Morris, who has lived in DeKalb for 36 years, said any tax increases considered by the board should not permanent.
“Given the situation right now, if you consider any tax increase I ask that they be temporary and not be in the form of a … millage increase,” Morris said.
Another resident, Tom Scott, also said taxes should not be increased.
“I was taught to make do with what I had or do without,” Scott said. “There are many people that are struggling to make their home mortgage payments.”
If they lose their home it will drive property values down further, affecting the tax base, Scott said.
Lee May said this is the third year Ellis has recommended a tax increase.
“The two prior years this board has said ‘no,’” May said.
While acknowledging the “realities of the housing market, the Board of Commissioners is taking into consideration unemployment, residents living on fixed incomes and the high foreclosure rate, May said.
“Those are all things we have to take into consideration when we are looking at our budget, all while still maintaining a certain quality of life here in DeKalb County,” May said.
The last of the three public hearings on the tax increase is set for July 12, the county’s deadline for adopting millage rates.
“We hear you and we are listening,” May said. The board’s task now is to determine what is a “realistic millage rate to fund this government.”