Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Comparing property taxes in Decatur and unincorporated DeKalb


Following up on yesterday’s post about tax rate changes from 2013 to 2014, I wanted to broaden the comparison to add unincorporated DeKalb’s tax rates for 2014.

Property tax rates are currently lower in Decatur than in unincorporated DeKalb County. A property without homestead exemptions located in Decatur would have a tax bill 7.5 percent lower than a property with the identical value in DeKalb County (even when factoring in Decatur’s higher assessment ratio of 50 percent compared to the county’s ratio of 40 percent) in 2014. However, Decatur residents also pay property tax bills to DeKalb, which are based on a lower rate than what unincorporated residents pay. Once the city and county tax bills are added together, a Decatur property owner's total property tax liability for 2014 would be 13.8 percent higher than in unincorporated DeKalb for a property with the same value.

Here’s an illustration of estimated taxes based on millage rates by jurisdiction for 2014 depending on property values for a property without homestead exemptions:


Some confusion about true size of the difference between City and County tax bills comes in partly because some City residents assume that their County tax bill is what they would pay if they were located outside the City in unincorporated DeKalb. But it isn’t. For example (again assuming no homestead exemptions for simplicity’s sake), if a Decatur property owner was de-annexed, their City bill would go away the following year, but their County property tax bill would increase by about 80 percent the following year assuming steady millage rates and property values. Similarly, if an unincorporated property owner were annexed into Decatur, they would begin paying City property taxes the next year but their County tax bill would drop by about 80 percent the next year. But again, individual circumstances will always vary on the basis of values, appeal status, exemptions, and fees. And all the millage rates can change every year which would change the math.

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