In case you missed it, the Council made several important decisions this week. I want to share some perspective on why we increased the millage rate and raised police compensation at the same time.
You might not be aware that when we became a city, the assessment of your home’s value was frozen. For city and county taxes, but not for schools, your property value is frozen at the assessed value either from 2009 or when you purchased it, if later than 2009. You can look at your actual bill, year over year, and see that the city tax amount has remained the same. City taxes make up approximately 4-5% of your bill.
Though the founders of the city set the initial millage rate at 2.74, they also anticipated that a future Council might need increased revenue. They included in the City’s Charter the ability for Council to raise the millage rate to 3.04. Any amount above that would require a referendum. Raising the millage to the cap will cost the average homeowner in Dunwoody somewhere between $33 and $69 a year but will result in an increase of about a million dollars a year for city revenue.
Public safety is City Council’s primary responsibility. As you are likely aware, over the last few years, retaining and recruiting police officers has become more difficult. At Monday’s City Council meeting, we approved an additional pay adjustment. With this increase, officers, detectives, and sergeants with the Dunwoody Police Department will have received an average pay increase of 20.8% since December 2020. This reflects the importance of public safety in Dunwoody.
We must be competitive with our neighboring cities in terms of salary and benefits. Click here to read all that Dunwoody offers to members of our Police Department. Council will actually vote on enhancing these benefits further at our next meeting.
The need to raise police salaries has driven the timing of this millage rate increase, but we are facing other budget pressures, as well. Seventy percent of city revenues come from the commercial sector, and we are uncertain about future commercial property valuation. DeKalb County is also struggling to provide services, and now is the time to shore up our revenue in anticipation of either declining values and/or a need for the city to provide more services.
We have discussed our financial situation extensively, publicly, over the last year or so. There have been at least 9 opportunities for the public to learn about, and comment on, the city’s financial situation. While not easy, we made the difficult decision, this week, to raise the millage rate in order to both improve the city’s financial health and keep the city moving forward.