A thoughtful and informed crowd turned out for May's Town Hall Meeting. City officials were on hand to walk those in attendance through the Proposed 2013 Budget and answer questions where possible.
Some key points were:
- Lilburn's millage rate has remained at 4.26 since at least 2009, a very favorable rate when compared to cities of similar sizes throughout Gwinnett County. The 2013 Budget is based upon a millage rate of 4.5 which would result in taxes of $7.60 PER YEAR on a $100,000 home; $13.30 on a $175,000 home and $19.00 additional per year on a $250,000 home. Mr. Johnsa explained that because the valuation of the tax digest had decreased, increasing the millage rate to 4.5 would not increase the amount generated by property tax would not be considered a tax increase according to state statute. As an example, property valued last year at $100,000 and this year may be valued less by the county; increasing the millage rate to 4.5 would only be a tax increase if their property maintained that $100,000 value. Some property owners will actually see a decrease in the property tax amount, for some it will stay the same and others will notice an increase.
- Mayor Crist noted that there was no line item in the budget for either the City Hall/Library or Main Street Realignment projects; these are covered with SPLOST funds marked specifically for these project. The costs will not be borne by the taxpayers of Lilburn.
- Of the Total Revenues in the $6,263,055 budget, 26.9% were from property taxes; SDS is 1.9%; Fees & Charges make up 32%; and 39.2% are from other revenue options. The tax digest shows that under the cost of services, 47% is for residential, 35% commercial and 18% are exempt (includes churches, schools, and municipal properties).
During the question and answer period, there were several who were concerned about the exempt properties showing as 18% and asked if there was something that could be done to ensure that this number did not increase in coming years. Mayor Crist explained that there were no guarantees as these types of properties were protected by state and federal laws.
When asked about the point of returned revenues from properties bought through the DDA, it was explained that Lilburn has asked the DDA to revitalize the area and has invested in it. Revenues will be realized upon the sale of properties to commercial interests. Mr. Johnsa explained that per an agreement between the DDA and the City, "we will receive back dollar for dollar with an increased tax base when commercial properties" are sold to those looking to invest in Lilburn.
Many questions and rumors were addressed during the question and answer period concerning Big League Dreams.
- Of note: There are NO BONDS held by the city for the purchase of the land. Though this was considered early in the process, it was soon "scrapped" by the council.
- Lilburn's DDA will buy the 38 acres intended for use by Big League Dreams and sell that land to investors who will develop the stadium and ball fields for travelling baseball teams and tournament play. The city has no debt involved in this project; the $1.3 million was taken out of a reserve account.
Norman Nash, Chairman of Lilburn's DDA, noted that the DDA was not a new entity in Lilburn and was formed through the State of Georgia in 2006.
- The 7 member board spent early years exploring ideas for improvement of existing opportunities as well as new and creative ideas.
- The DDA is that it has powers for attaining revenue through bonds, etc., and can hold property as well as sell it based on criteria that it feels benefits the city.
- They felt the 38 acres set aside for the Big League Dreams project, since it is in the heart of town, would be a good investment no matter the final outcome. They would have control of what was to be developed on the acreage.
- Big League Dreams will be funded by private investors who will pay the land price back to the city at closing. The city benefits by having an attractive draw to bring families to the city, thus bringing quality restaurants to Lilburn along with the multitude of other support services these families may require.
- The DDA is working through negotiations so that in the event of failure, the land would be available on a buy-back clause for the city.
- Three studies were conducted throughout the process: 1) a market analysis; 2) an economic feasibility study; and 3) a site study. It was determined that BLD would be a very good fit for the city and the site; and certainly more appealing than the possibility of a sewage plant.
Mr. Nash closed by saying that the DDA was not signing any deeds until the money was in hand. "The worst we can do is own 38 acres on Indian Trail."
The next Town Hall meeting is June 25th and possible topics may include Code Enforcement, Update on CID, Law Enforcement/Public Safety, and Handicap Accessibility for New Business.
You may find answers to these questions and many others on the City of Lilburn's website this week.
Edited to more correctly explain the millage rate. My thanks to Mr. Johnsa and Mrs. Preston for their input.