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Stockbridge rolls back millage to zero

 

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

   Stockbridge residents will see another year with no city property taxes.

  The City Council unanimously approved a 5.189-mill rollback for 2013, and Mayor Mark Alarcon cited local option sales tax revenue as the primary reason the city is able to do this.

  “The city has been able to provide all necessary services, while also expanding and offering new services and fully staff City Hall without levying property taxes,” said Alarcon.

  He went on to point out several new businesses that are providing more than 150 jobs within the city limits in the coming year, and even a particular business that was unable to relocate within the city but was assisted by city staff and council members in finding a suitable location just outside the city limits, which is still a plus for the county and the city.

  When the total digest of taxable property is prepared, state law requires that a rollback millage rate must be computed that will produce the same total revenue on the current year’s new digest that last year’s millage rate would have produced had no reassessments occurred.

  If city officials had chosen to set its millage rate higher than the rollback rate, the move would have required three public hearings and various other notices.

  According to the office of Henry County Tax Commissioner David Curry, the net taxable value of the 2013 tax digest for Stockbridge amounts to just under $640 million.

  The council’s other big financial move Monday night was to approve a $1 million loan to the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), payable over 30 years. A separate motion authorized the transfer of the money from the city’s reserve fund for this purpose.

  City officials noted that this action was consistent with recent moves giving the DDA increased power to make decisions impacting local businesses and the downtown area in general.

  These votes passed 4-0, with Councilperson Alphonso Thomas announcing that he was abstaining. He stated no conflict of interest or any other reason typically associated with a decision to abstain from a vote. Thomas also abstained without comment from the council’s 4-0 vote approving the authorization of the DDA to enact an agreement for cultural and leisure services at the city’s Multiplex.

  As part of the meeting’s consent agenda, the council moved to lease the old police station building, the Merle Manders Conference Center management building, the Ted Strickland Community Center, the Multiplex, and a portion of the parking lot at the city’s Public Works Building to the DDA.

  Three organizations were approved for funding under the city’s Community Partnership Grant Program: Academy Theatre ($15,000); DDJ Event Promotions LLC ($5,000); and Greater Atlanta Comic Con ($10,000).

  The council OK’d a memorandum of understanding with Academy Theatre, which is working to present a festival of short plays in conjunction with this fall’s Bridgefest event, to help that organization in its quest for additional grant funding.  

  Thomas cast the lone dissenting vote on this item, saying that he liked what the theatre group was doing but felt the city should have working harder to find a group based in Stockbridge or Henry County. Academy Theatre is based in Avondale Estates in DeKalb County, Thomas noted.

 A half-marathon in conjunction with Bridgefest is the goal of DDJ Event Productions, and the city approved a contract with that organization toward that end. City manager David Milliron stated that DDJ is operating as a not-for-profit organization and has designated all proceeds from the race to be donated to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. The Community Partnership Grant covers only a small portion of DDJ’s expenses for the October race.

  The city’s existing ordinance regarding parades was repealed and replaced with a newer set of regulations. Milliron called the old ordinance “unconstitutionally vague.” Thomas cast the lone dissenting vote without comment.

  The council repealed another ordinance Milliron said was outdated, this time regarding street and sidewalk vendors and portable eating establishments.

  “Times have changed since this ordinance was enacted,” said Milliron, noting that the current regulation and licensing of food establishments makes it unnecessary and even a potential threat to certain food-related special events sponsored by churches and civic organizations.

  Milliron specifically cited a recent event in which a Stockbridge business invited a food truck from a well-known Atlanta restaurant, and said that technically it could have earned a citation under the outdated ordinance. He did not mention the business by name, but Moye’s Pharmacy hosted a Varsity food truck during lunch time one day in June.

  The final council action of the evening was an amendment to the sanitation ordinance calling for a $25 one-time fee per pickup of special large items such as furniture and appliances.

 Milliron called this proposal a compromise, saying that the city is not legally authorized to collect such items and doing so could result in OSHA violations or injuries to employees. However, he recognized that if the city does not do something, people will often simply dump the items.

  The new fee is far lower than any reasonable alternatives, Milliron said, because the transfer station in Stockbridge is a private for-profit business but the city pays a special municipal rate. The next nearest option for disposal of such items is the Clayton County landfill, he added.

  “Stockbridge still has the lowest sanitation rate on the south side of Atlanta,” said Milliron just before the council’s unanimous vote to approve the new fee.

 

 

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