Chamblee, GA, July 12, 2017 – Opinion by Van Pappas – Last week Chamblee City Council held the third and final Public Meeting to set the 2017 City millage rate. I attended two of the public meetings, the first having only 3 in attendance and I was the sole attendee at the last meeting.
After the Public Meeting ended, Council held a regular meeting to vote on the issue. The vote was unanimous in favor of keeping the millage rate at 6.4. Since property valuations across Chamblee have gone up for the second year in a row, those with higher valuations will experience a tax increase (by most standards it is a minimal increase). With all the current things the City is doing to improve our community, a major rate reduction is not prudent in 2017. But it does beg the question, Is there a way to achieve our financial goals and still reduce our millage rate? I say, Yes there is a way.
Fun Fact: Did you know that less than 15% of Chamblee’s revenue comes from Residential Property Taxes. That’s right, your home is not where most of the City’s money comes from. The rest of the revenue comes from Commercial property valuations, business community fees, and various enterprise and HOST funds.
In reviewing the City financial statements, it is clear that the City is conservative in its spending. I don’t believe it would be wise to cut spending from any of our three major departments (Police, Public Works or Parks). These are valuable departments and any cuts to them would be felt in the community. As a financial planner, my experience tells me, if we can’t cut spending then we need to focus on increasing revenue. There are two areas that the City can work on to generate more revenue.
- Create a Business Friendly environment. This will drive more businesses to locate in our City. As more businesses come, the City will collect more Business Licenses, Permit Fees, Occupational Taxes and other fees. This focus should start at the Mayor’s office and work its way down to every city employee. Any action that can help make our businesses successful will work towards driving City revenue. We can do this without lowering our standards.
- Focus on the undervalued commercial properties. While lots of development is going on along the City Downtown Corridor, there are lots of vacant and low-valued commercial properties in other parts of town. Action is needed along the Buford Hwy, Chamblee-Tucker and Shallowford Rd areas. By working to improve those areas, we give the citizens a more attractive community, provide more space for businesses, and most importantly increase the value of the commercial properties which will bring more revenue for the City. Let’s also not forget the commercial strips we have along the I-285 and I-85 access roads.
Can we reduce our millage rate in the future? Yes, we can, if we start today focusing on our larger revenue sources.