“The board of commissioners and I have asked our delegation to amend the state code to require approval by the county for annexation of areas that currently receive county services,” Ellis said during his annual State of the County address last week, in which he discussed several of county’s challenges.
He said he does not harbor an anti-city sentiment but that DeKalb has reached a “tipping point where continued annexation will hamper the ability of the county to adequately fund essential services.”
In the 2013 proposed budget Ellis submitted to county commissioners in December, he said the county will sustain an estimated $25 million loss in revenue this year with Brookhaven’s incorporation. When cities annex prime real estate, it also hurts the county’s bottom line, he said during last week’s address.
As a way to increase revenue, Ellis said he and the commissioners have also asked the General Assembly to remove restrictions that limit the county’s ability to increase sales tax for purposes of capital improvement, economic development, transportation and infrastructure maintenance.
“We are at a competitive disadvantage with our neighboring counties that have access to funding to repair roads, build sidewalks and restore deteriorating infrastructure,” Ellis explained.
Declining property values — a common issue in many communities across the nation — have impacted the county’s budget as well, as property tax revenue drops with lower property values. Ellis said property values have gone down 25 percent county-wide throughout the past five years and 50 percent just in unincorporated DeKalb.
As a result, Ellis proposed in his amended 2013 budget recommendations a property tax rate increase of 0.64 mills for 2013, which equates to about $18.37 per year in additional tax on a home valued at $200,000.
The commissioners could make adjustments to Ellis’ recommendations before adopting the budget by the end of this month.
Despite the struggles facing the county, Ellis did outline some significant accomplishments DeKalb has experienced in the past year, such as the work of the county’s mobile career center and openings of the Renewable Energy Facility and Compressed Natural Gas station at the Seminole Landfill.