Brookhaven, GA, July 19, 2016 – by Trey Benton – The City of Brookhaven has sent a message to the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners (BOC), asking them to vote down a Resolution to add a proposed Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) and an Equalized Homestead Option Sales Tax (E-HOST) to November’s General Election Ballot. Significant questions regarding language in House Bill 596 have been raised because, if passed, the Bill would essentially do away with the DeKalb County Homestead Property Valuation Freeze. More specifically, if County Officials place a SPLOST and E-HOST referendum on the November ballot and voters also approve, for the term of those measures, the freeze would be suspended.
Brookhaven’s Mayor, John Ernst, has released the following statement:
“After conferring with my colleagues on City Council, Brookhaven has sent a message to the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners urging commissioners not support placing SPLOST and E-HOST on the November ballot.
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.
While most citizens of Brookhaven would have gotten a net tax decrease, the poorly written legislation did not give clarity on the effects. In light of those concerns and in an abundance of caution, the City of Brookhaven urges the Board of Commissioners to reject the referendum. Regardless of the outcome of today’s BOC [meeting], Brookhaven property owners can rest assured that the IGA will not [be] enforce[d] without the support of all affected cities.”
Over the last couple of weeks, Leaders from various DeKalb cities have voted to participate in supporting the DeKalb Board of Commissioners (BOC) to place SPLOST and E-HOST on the ballot, as well as an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) outlining how they would spend HOST proceeds…except for Dunwoody. The City Council there met Monday morning and will continue to tap the brakes on approving an IGA after news about the potential ramifications of HB 596. Brookhaven says they will now retract their support.
Deputy Legislative Counsel for the Georgia General Assembly, Rick Ruskell, confirmed in an email on Friday, “HB 596 serves to suspend the homestead valuation freeze currently in effect in DeKalb County if the new HOST and a SPLOST are approved in the November election. Upon the expiration of the HOST, the homestead valuation freeze would be reinstated in DeKalb County.” Also in an email, Senator Fran Millar wrote, “If it passes the freeze [is] dead as long as it is in force.” He added, “Will fix in January.”
While the intent to “fix the glitch” may come in January, voters across DeKalb will see a “Yes” or “No” question on their November ballot reading: “Shall the Act be approved which amends the homestead exemption from DeKalb County ad valorem taxes for county purposes in an amount equal to the amount by which the current year assessed value of a homestead exceeds the base year assessed value of such homestead by extending the time limitation on such exemption?”
But the “flawed” language does not appear in the ballot question itself, it appears on line 22 of the Bill, and is part of the following paragraph: “(2) 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 full Bill is here).
The DeKalb BOC is expected to vote on the matter during Tuesday’s meeting that is currently in session as of the time of this post. We will follow-up on that decision separately in another article.