Monday, December 24, 2012

Attorney payments due in 10 days

Did you know that lawyers in the City of Decatur are required to pay an occupation tax by the end of each year?  The bill is for $400 plus a $25 administration fee.  Revenues from the tax are used to provide quality services to the public.

Some attorneys have previously questioned the City’s occupation tax on attorneys on the basis of Barnes v. City of AtlantaBarnes holds that such taxes must be revenue measures only, not regulatory in nature.  Decatur’s occupation tax ordinance expressly states that the occupation tax is levied “for revenue purposes only and is not for regulatory purposes” (Sec. 22-14).

We mailed out bills to local attorneys on Oct. 31.  Normally, payments are due by Dec. 31, but this year City Hall will be closed on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.  Therefore, lawyers' occupation taxes for 2012 are due on Jan. 2, 2013.

Checks can be mailed to the City of Decatur, P.O. Box 220, Decatur GA  30031.  Payments can also be made in-person at 509 N. McDonough St. by cash, check or credit card (Visa, MasterCard, or Discover).  Please return the bottom portion of the invoice you received when you pay so we can post your payment to the right record.  If you did not receive your bill, or if you received a bill but no longer practice law in the City, please let us know.

We appreciate all the attorneys who have chosen to practice law in the City of Decatur.  And  thanks also to the 50 attorneys who have already paid for this year!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Welcome aboard, Tanya Sims!

If you paid your property taxes in person this installment, you probably noticed a new employee at the window.  Tanya Sims has joined the City’s workforce after serving five years at the Fulton County tax commissioner’s office handling property tax, motor vehicle tax, and front line customer service.  We are fortunate to have an employee with her expertise and experience, but we’re even more excited her charm and positive attitude.

We chose Tanya out of 150 applicants this summer after a rigorous selection process that included and a phone interview, an in-person panel interview, a written/math assessment, and background and reference checks.  Tanya is looking forward to working one more month with us to complete her initial six-month evaluation period.  She intends to stay with the City as long as possible, which means "till y'all get rid of me!" she says.

Like all of our Revenue staff, Tanya handles customer service, processes tax payments, homestead exemptions, deposits, and permit payments.  Tanya will also have the opportunity to work closely with businesses on their occupation tax and annual license renewals like Kate Hall, the employee she replaced.

Tanya has always enjoyed spending time in Decatur, which was part of the reason that she applied for this position.  A DeKalb County resident, Tanya has a son who participates in City of Decatur basketball programs.  Tanya has previously served as a volunteer during the Decatur Tour of Homes.

Please join me in welcoming her to the team!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Thanks, Bina!

Visitors to the tax office may have met a new face at the Revenue Division over the summer.  Bina Desai, a Randstad employee who has temped for several departments within the City, began working half-days for us after Kate's departure while we searched for a permanent hire. 

Bina recently finished working for us after several months, but she has temped for the city over a year and a half, including stints with Public Works, Development, the city clerk's office, the DDA, a mostly the city manager's office.  Her familiarity with other departments was a tremendous asset to us during her time in Revenue, and she did a great job.

Bina is a Decatur local and earned a degree in architecture from Georgia Tech.  We hope to continue to be able to bring Bina back from time to time to help with special projects and to supplement coverage when we're short-staffed.

Thank you, Bina, for your service to our department and to the taxpayers of Decatur!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Shaun Shabazz recognized for 20+ years of service

During the annual State of the City address in March 2012, Mayor Bill Floyd recognized long-term employees, including our own senior revenue officer, Shaun Shabazz.
Honorees at State of City (Shaun Shabazz, far left)
While presenting her with a 20-year service pin, the mayor quipped, “Shaun is one of those lovely people you go to see to complain about your taxes.”
Afterward, Shaun said that “it says a lot for the city” to give public recognition to long-time employees.  Shaun also says that one of her biggest contributions over the years has been assisting the elderly with their taxes.

Shaun began working for the city in 1991 as a dispatcher at the police department.  She’s been in the tax department in 1996.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

A message from Mayor Bill Floyd

The city manager and I met with several people from the tax appraiser’s office on June 5, 2012. The following information was given to us at that time.

  1. There are 30 properties that were identified last week with errors. These will be submitted to the BOA for adjustment at their meeting on June 7th. Revised appraisals will be mailed after the meeting.  Property owners will have 45 days from the date of the revised notice to file an appeal.
  2.  The appraisers office has identified an additional 1500 properties in the city that are being adjusted for any of several reasons
  3. The list of 1500 will be submitted to he BOA at their meeting on June 21st for approval
  4. If approved ,  these revised notices will be sent out the week of June 25th.
  5. Current appeal deadline is July 13th.
  6. If you receive an adjusted notice, it restarts the clock and you have another 45 days to appeal
Their Recommendation:

  1. Wait until July 2nd to appeal to see if you get a revised notice.  
  2. If by that date you have not received a revised assessment, you are probably not going to get one and you have until July 13th to file an appeal
  3. If you have received a revised assessment and it is a satisfactory amount you will not need to appeal. If you receive a revised assessment and are not satisfied, you have 45 days from the new notice to appeal.

  1. The appraisers are attempting to adjust land values to more realistic(their words not ours) levels  based on market conditions.
  2. You can appeal based on land value, house value or both
  3. The problems are due in part to a software transition they have been under going for about a year. They are currently operating under two systems. Our appraisals are under the old system that is difficult to manipulate for older more mature communities with varying housing types, styles and ages. Transition is expected to be complete before next year s appraisals.
  4. DeKalb County Tax Appraisers office under a tremendous work load now. If you receive an adjusted notice that is acceptable and do not appeal rather than filing an appeal and withdrawing do to a satisfactory adjustment, it will help those who do appeal receive a quicker response.
Our anticipation is that of the 1500 adjustments about ½ will go up and ½ will come down. Some will be satisfied and some not. Our insistence with the appraiser’s office is that all get a fair appraisal.

They also  do not use geographic definitions for neighborhoods in places like the City of Decatur because of the varying types, ages ,conditions and level of renovations of the housing stock.  For example – a house built in the 1930’s that is still a 3 bedroom 1 bath, 1100sf that has never been significantly improved is in an “Effective Age” neighborhood with other similar construction types regardless of the geographic neighborhood (Oakhurst, Winnona Park, Great Lakes); a 1930’s house that has been significantly renovated – added a second floor or new master suites, would be in a different “Effective Age” neighborhood; and a new house that replaced a demolished 1930’s house would be in a different “Effective Age” neighborhood.  Ultimately they want to be using a depreciation type valuation system that provides a reasonable fair market standard value for land and an economic life value for the building and any improvements. This is the system they are trying to transition to but have been hampered in making it work because of the dual software systems.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tax news round-up

Here are some of the latest commentaries on DeKalb County's property assessment notices:

Saturday, June 2, 2012

AJC reports on boards of equalization

Thursday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on boards of equalization that have experienced a sharp rise in property value appeals throughout metro-Atlanta.  The article also described DeKalb County’s “calendar-call format” for BOE hearings:
Instead of an appointment-based system that gave appealing property owners an assigned time to report for their case, [Cobb County] changed the format to a calendar-call system that requires scores of property owners to sign in so their appeals can be heard on a first-come, first-served basis…

Like Cobb, DeKalb County also adopted the calendar-call format to accommodate the extra BOE work.

“It wasn’t popular, but it is what it is,” said Debra DeBerry, the county’s Superior Court clerk. “That way you don’t lose any of your hours to no-shows, and we had large numbers of no-shows here.”

Based on its population, DeKalb is authorized to operate 13 BOEs, but it only uses between three and six panels because there isn’t space to accommodate more, DeBerry said. The BOEs have heard about 14,600 appeals for 2011.

DeBerry asked for additional funding for the BOE budget this year but didn’t get her full request. DeKalb’s BOE office budget is $442,000, including $240,000 for member salaries. She has also asked for additional operating space.

The AJC’s full article here may give local taxpayers some additional insight into how their BOE appeals are being handled, and what the BOE workload means for county budgets.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Message about property values

Please visit the City of Decatur's website here for a message about the property assessment notices that were recently sent out by DeKalb County.

Any update will also be posted as soon as it's available.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Tax office open this Saturday

One-time special Revenue Division hours

The City of Decatur property tax office, open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., will also be open this Saturday, May 5, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. These office hours will offer more opportunities for one-on-one customer service to the public–especially for taxpayers who aren’t able to stop by during the regular work week.
If you have a property tax issue, a homestead exemption question, a business license matter, or need to make a payment, please come by 509 North McDonough Street and enter through the front door of City Hall. The tax office is on the first floor to your left. No appointments are needed.

We will also take phone calls this Saturday:  404-370-4100.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Job opportunity open in Revenue Division

The City of Decatur is now considering applicants for our vacant Revenue Officer position.

Until now, there have been no vacancies in this position for the last 12 years, so this is a rare opportunity.

If you know a qualified person who would be interested in applying to join our team, please encourage them to read the job announcement and apply for the position.

Customer service skills are a must, and a property tax background is preferred.  Decatur often receives national recognition for local government excellence, so many applicants have already expressed their interest in this position, and we expect many more up through the May 9 deadline.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Revenue Officer leaves City Hall

One of our Revenue Officers, Kate Hall, has resigned to pursue other opportunities.

Kate began working for the City in 1999. She was an occupation tax specialist, and held certifications from state and national business license associations in addition to her accounting degree.

Kate told her colleagues, “It has been a pleasure working here at the City. Words cannot express my regret to say goodbye. But it is time for me to spread my wings and fly.”

About 20 city employees and friends including Mayor Bill Floyd and City Manager Peggy Merriss attended a recent farewell luncheon for Kate to wish her well.

Thank you for your service, Kate, and good luck with your next endeavor!
Kate Hall and Mayor Bill Floyd

Friday, April 20, 2012

Only 10 days left for business license payments

The deadline for local businesses to pay for their 2012 business license was Jan. 31. By law, businesses could still pay during a 90 day grace period following that deadline before penalties and interest are added.

Only 10 days of that grace period remain. Unpaid balances after Apr. 30 will be subject to a 10 percent penalty and 1 percent monthly interest.

Payments for occupational tax certificates may be made at City Hall or mailed to our office along with your invoice and notarized SAVE affidavit to:

City of Decatur
P.O. Box 220
Decatur, GA 30031

Failure to register for a renewal certificate will result in an automatic suspension of the business license.

Businesses no longer operating in the City of Decatur should notify us in writing so we can update our records.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

City bills 7,500 properties

The City of Decatur Revenue Division mailed approximately 7,500 bills on Mar. 26 for property owners’ first installment tax bills for 2012.

Bills citywide totaled $17.9 million in taxes (which includes approximately $11.2 million for the school system) and $2.2 million for residential sanitation and stormwater fees.

Payments are due by June 1 and can be made by mail, in person, or online. First installment tax bills are always based of the prior year’s property value, and are calculated by multiplying the assessed value by the total millage rate of 33.9 and dividing the total in half.

Although the Revenue Division provides tax data to several major lenders upon their request, we always mail the tax bills directly to property owners. We do not mail bills to banks. If your mortgage company is responsible for your taxes, please forward the payment coupon at the lower portion of your tax bill to your lender.

If you own property in the city and have not received your tax city bill yet, please call our office to confirm your mailing address so we can send you a new bill. Or you can go to at any time to view, print, or pay your taxes.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Homestead exemptions reduce taxes

The homestead exemption application deadline is fast approaching!  If you live at the property you own, you may qualify for up to seven homestead exemptions offered by the City of Decatur:

·        General homestead exemption:  Homeowners who reside at their home are eligible to apply online or in person.  In 2011, this exemption reduced property taxes for eligible homeowners by $233.60.

·        GS-1 exemption:  You qualify to apply if you were at least 62 as of Jan. 1, and your total household income does not exceed $25,000.  The GS-1 saved most eligible homeowners $1,629 each in 2011.

·        S-1 exemption:  You qualify to apply if you were 62 or older as of Jan. 1 and your household income does not exceed $10,000 excluding retirement.  Pensions and Social Security do not count toward income for this exemption, but income such as salary, wages, rental income, interest and dividends are included.  The S-1 saved most eligible homeowners $209 in 2011.

·        GH-2 exemption:  Owners were 65 as of Jan. 1 may file for the GH-2 regardless of income.  It can save homeowners about $12 a year.

·       S-3 exemption:  Owners who were age 70 as of Jan. 1 may file for the S-3 regardless of income.  It saved eligible homeowners up to $995 in 2011.

·        S-2 exemption:  To qualify for a 100 percent exemption from school taxes, the homeowner must have been over the age of 80 as of Jan. 1 and household income cannot exceed $40,000.  This includes any type of income.

·        Disabled veterans can qualify for an additional exemption if they reside at the property and have a 100 percent disability documented by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

If you have already applied for a homestead exemption, you do not need to re-apply.  If you filed for a homestead exemption with DeKalb, you must also apply with Decatur.  You must apply if you qualify for a new exemption based on age or income.

By law we can accept homestead exemption applications up until Apr. 1.  However, we are encouraging all eligible homeowners to apply this week for any new exemptions for 2012 to ensure your exemption appears on your 1st installment 2012 property tax bill which will be printed and mailed just prior to April 1.

For details on how homestead exemptions are calculated or to apply for the general homestead exemption online, please click here.  Applicants for all other exemptions must apply in person at Decatur City Hall, 509 N. McDonough St., Monday through Friday, 8 to 5.

Please apply today, and remind a neighbor, too!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Concerned about online fees?

Over 22,379 visitors have used our online tax look-up website, since it was launched in late 2010.  December 2011 was a record month with 1,916 visitors alone (and Decatur only has about 8,000 properties)!

Although people increasingly turn to our website to look up tax information, we hear occasional concerns from the public about the online payment option.  The City of Decatur’s third party payment processor charges 2.2 percent plus 30¢ for online credit card payments through Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express.

Through our online survey, we’ve even received a comment that “The County has never charged a fee for payment.”  Actually, DeKalb County’s website says “Payments may be accepted via VISA, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover, but a 2.5 percent transaction fee will be added to the payment.”

The perception that Decatur charges a fee that the county doesn’t charge may stem from the fact that DeKalb doesn’t charge a fee for online checks.

While that function is not directly supported by the city’s third party processor, you may be able to issue an online check to the City of Decatur through your personal bank at no charge to you.  Several major and local banks or credit unions offer account services such as online checking that would enable you to pay through the Internet without incurring a fee.  In other words, you could use our website to look up how much money you owe, then use your own online bank account to issue a payment without having to write out your own paper check.  Please contact your bank for terms and details.

Decatur taxpayers can also pay online through PayPal, which I noticed is currently offering a “Bill Me Later” feature that offers six months to pay on payments of $99 or more.  I’m not endorsing any one payment method over another, but that feature may be an option worth looking into for some Decatur residents or business taxpayers facing short-term cash flow problems.  Details on that program can be found here.

And of course we still take payments the old-fashioned way—from checks by mail, payments in person, or payments from your mortgage lender!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Revenue office changes in the New Year

Shaun Shabazz did a great job running the Revenue Division while I was on military leave over the past year.  She conducted successful tax billings during the second installment of 2010 and both installments of 2011.  Shaun also managed a highly effective delinquent collections process that resulted in no homes having to be at a tax sale while simultaneously achieving a very high real estate property tax collection rate!
Thank you, Shaun!
Holly Jackson served as a revenue clerk in the office for the year, and she did a great job as well.  Her smiling face and warm presence won accolades from customers and co-workers alike.  We are saddened to see her leave our little office, but are glad that she’s still here in City Hall working in the Development Department now.

Lastly, I’d like to thank the City of Decatur and my supervisor, assistant city manager Andrea Arnold, for their support for my deployment and facilitating my re-entry to civilian life here.  I’m looking forward to getting reacquainted with the public throughout the New Year!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Grace period for 2011 taxes expires soon

The City of Decatur’s second installment property tax bills were due on Dec. 20, 2011.  No penalties or interest have been added to unpaid balances yet, but this grace period will end on January 5. 

If you haven’t already done so, please pay by Thursday to avoid additional fees.

If you aren’t sure whether or not you have paid, please check our tax look-up website at, or call us at 404-370-4100.  Due to mail, banking, posting, and data processing times, please allow 7 to 10 business days for payments tendered to show up on your tax records online. 

Our office will be open until 5:00 p.m. every day this week.  We accept payments through checks by mail; through credit cards or Paypal accounts online; and cash, check, or credit in person.

Postmarks will be honored on checks mailed to:

City of Decatur Lockbox
P.O. Box 945650
Atlanta, GA  30394-5650

If you intend to overnight a payment or visit us, our physical location is City Hall, 509 N. McDonough St., Decatur, GA  30030.  Please note that we do not have a secure after-hours drop box.