Election 2017: DeKalb passes sales tax hike and property tax break

12:00 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017 Local
David Barnes/DAVID BARNES / SPECIAL
Dunwoody residents Fran Percarpio, center, and Ann Percarpio, left, cast their ballots at Chestnut Elementary School in Atlanta, for the 6th Congressional District race on Tuesday, April 18, 2017. (DAVID BARNES / DAVID.BARNES@AJC.COM)

DeKalb voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved raising the county’s sales tax rate to 8 percent, which will bring in hundreds of millions of dollars to fix crumbling roads and make infrastructure improvements.

The special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) was part of a broad tax referendum that will also lower property taxes countywide.

The tax overhaul will generate more than $100 million annually for county and city governments to fund road repairs, new fire stations, police cars, park upgrades and more.

The one percent sales tax increase will raise more than $100,000,000 a year.

DeKalb CEO Mike Thurmond said voters supported “a blueprint for success.” 

“We take this vote of trust seriously and will continue to work with our city partners on a better future,” Thurmond said in a statement.

The referendum was meant to both fund infrastructure projects and make taxation more equal between residents in cities and unincorporated areas.

The sales tax will be distributed proportionately by population between the county and each city government. The cities, with 39 percent of DeKalb’s population, will receive about $249 million over the next six years. Unincorporated DeKalb will get 61 percent, or about $388 million.

RELATED: View DeKalb County’s project list

Besides the sales tax, voters also backed two other referendums that will reduce homeowners’ property tax bills.

The new equalized homestead option sales tax (EHOST) will use all the proceeds from an existing 1 percent sales tax to shrink property taxes. 

The EHOST replaces a similar sales tax that returned 80 percent of its revenue to homeowners, with the remaining 20 percent funding government infrastructure. 

Almost all of the infrastructure funding went to city governments, leaving the county with about only $1.5 million annually for road resurfacing and more than 318 miles of unincorporated roads in poor condition. The county plans to spent more than $151 million of its SPLOST funds on road repaving.

The EHOST will make property tax discount roughly even for all residents — about $750 to $800 on a $200,000 home, according to the county. Unincorporated residents will see a smaller increase in their property tax refund after years of higher tax breaks than city residents.

The last referendum on the ballot, called the frozen exemption, made permanent a tax break for homeowners.

The frozen exemption offsets DeKalb property tax increases caused by rising property assessments. The exemption, which otherwise could have expired after 2021, will now remain in effect as long as the EHOST is in place, or until it’s repealed by the Georgia General Assembly.

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