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Officials: Decatur’s finances in order
by Bobby Tedder
June 13, 2012 10:00 AM | 2026 views | 2 2 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
City of Decatur officials are reporting that all is clear on the budget front.

Roughly translated, the news means a property tax increase is not on the horizon for the upcoming fiscal year.

“We’re in really good financial health right now,” said Decatur City Manager Peggy Merriss.

The Decatur City Commission adopted a tentative 2012 millage rate of 13 mills — the same as 2011 — last month. The final millage will be set at its meeting on Monday, following the second of two public hearings on the matter.

“We have a balanced budget,” said Merriss. “We don’t intend to cut or remove services … we’re mostly focusing on maintaining the current budget and current service levels.”

Decatur officials are anticipating adding about $130,000 to the city’s fund balance at year’s end.

Merriss credits the city’s historically conservative financial approach as a major factor in its current solvency. That approach is reflective of its dependence on ad valorem taxes, which tend to remain stable over time instead of relying on the sales and use taxes that can experience significant fluctuations.

DeKalb’s county seat has also been able to rely on growth in other revenue sources such as fees for service, Merriss said.

Local taxpayers will see their dollars utilized, among other things, for the city’s biggest capital improvement investment endeavor over the next two to four years in the form of the redevelopment of the Beacon School complex.

Built in the late 1950s and early 60s as a school for the African-American community, the site presently houses the police department, a recreation center, gymnasium and art studio space.

The first phase of the $30 million project will kick off with an overhaul of the drainage system there. Afterward, demolition of the existing facility and construction of a new one housing police headquarters, the municipal court and possibly the city’s central administrative offices are next on the agenda.

Merriss noted that Decatur has managed to avoid the extreme financial distress faced by entities in both the public and private sector in recent years.

“We have been quite fortunate to have weathered the economic downturn the way that we have,” she said.

The first of the two public hearings about the city of Decatur budget took place on June 4. The other will be held Monday at 7:30 p.m. in the City Commission meeting room.

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