Monthly Archives: December 2014

Legislative Committee to Vote on City Boundaries This Morning

The five member panel tasked with determining the final boundaries for the proposed cities of LaVista Hills and Tucker is now scheduled to vote on the boundaries from 9am to 11am today (December 19).

The committee will meet in Room 606 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building at 18 Capitol Square SW (across from the Capitol). No public comments are scheduled for the meeting. It will be streamed live and recorded for those who would like to watch. You can find a link to the live stream below by going to www.house.ga.gov,. The link is not currently there but will probably say LIVE STREAM OF THE DEKALB COUNTY CITYHOOD SUBCOMMITTEE OF GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS MEETING.

COVE Report – December 11, 2014

Victoria Estates Neighborhood Meeting on Proposed Atlanta Annexation – Tonight, December 11

Featured Speaker: Alex Wan, Atlanta City Councilmember
Date: Thursday, December 11
Time: 6:30 pm
Place: Home of Barb Zehnbauer/Tim Buchman
961 Castle Falls Drive NE
Atlanta, GA 30329

Councilmember Alex Wan has served as a member of Atlanta City Council since 2010. He represents District 6, which includes Ansley Park, Atwood Park, Brookwood Hills, Druid Hills, Lindridge/Martin Manor, Midtown, Morningside, Piedmont Heights, Sherwood Forest, Virginia-Highland, Lindbergh/Morosgo. While Councilmember Wan did not draw the map that is currently under discussion, he is a good source for answering questions you may have about the annexation process and the City of Atlanta.

DEKALB COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT RELEASES IMPACT ASSESSMENT OF PROPOSED ANNEXATION OF DRUID HILLS

5 December 2014

Study finds 2,922 students will be disenfranchised and displaced, taxes on senior
citizens will increase significantly and Fernbank Science Center will be lost to all
DeKalb students
Today, Superintendent Michael Thurmond issued a report on the impacts of the
proposed annexation of the Druid Hills neighborhood into the City of Atlanta. The
proposed Druid Hills annexation plan is supported by “Together in Atlanta,” a
local group of residents advocating for annexation.
The proposed Druid Hills annexation plan would result in significantly higher
taxes, disenfranchisement and displacement of 2,922 students, and districtwide
loss of instructional opportunities, athletic programs, instructional staff, and
funding potential.
“Innocent students will suffer under this proposed annexation plan,” said Mr.
Thurmond. “With this proposal, the focus and priority for public education will be
on the wants of adults and not the needs of children.”
Highlights of the annexation’s impact on the DCSD include:
– Property taxes for senior citizens over the age of 70 years with incomes of
less than $82,000 will see their property taxes increased by $4,000, or more
than 200 percent. All other property tax payers will experience increases in
taxes by the City of Atlanta.
– A total of 2,922 students in the District will be disenfranchised and
displaced by the annexation with the largest impact being 1,075 students at
Druid Hills High School. Similar impacts will be seen at Druid Hills Middle
School, Fernbank Elementary School, Briar Vista Elementary School,
Laurel Heights School, and the International Center.
– 1,626 students and parents in 37 schools will no longer have access to
DeKalb school choice options.
– 100,000 students will no longer have access to the Fernbank Science
Center resulting in the loss of a STEM Training Center. (DeKalb County has
four of the 11 statewide STEM certified schools with 48 schools working on
certification.
– The old Briarcliff High School, a long-term fixed asset for the DCSD with a
potential value of $50 million, could be forced from the District.
– One of five District stadiums that serve 18 high schools and 18 middle
schools will be lost resulting in a possible loss or reduction of junior
varsity soccer and lacrosse.
A complete copy of the impact report may be found at: www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/

Contact:
Quinn Hudson
678.676.0720
quinn_hudson@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us

TOGETHER IN ATLANTA’S RESPONSE TO DEKALB COUNTY SCHOOLS IMPACT ASSESSMENT

December 9, 2014

“Together In Atlanta responds to correct errors in Superintendent Michael Thurmond’s presentation”

DeKalb County School District (DCSD) Superintendent Michael Thurmond made a presentation to the public and the Board of Education regarding Atlanta annexation at the December 8 Board Meeting. Together In Atlanta (TIA) has proposed to maintain the integrity of the Fernbank and Briar Vista Elementary School communities through annexation to Atlanta, in light of the municipalization of DeKalb, which has gained momentum since 2008. While Mr. Thurmond’s interest in the Druid Hills Cluster is welcome, his presentation contained errors and information not up to date. Although the Superintendent responded negatively to DSCD Board Member’s request he meet with TIA last night and has previously shown no interest in the annexation movement, TIA is happy to provide this information so that correct information might be disseminated. We share the goal of success for all students, and the provision of clear and accurate information so that the democratic process of choice can be best-pursued.
Background
Together In Atlanta exists as a result of municipalization efforts across DeKalb County that commenced in 2008 and resulted in the cities of Dunwoody and Brookhaven. In 2012 and 2013, several cityhood movements gained momentum in the General Assembly, including a City of DeKalb, Lakeside, Briarcliff, Tucker, and Stonecrest. The attendance zones for Fernbank and Briar Vista elementary schools, the core of communities, was bisected and affected by many of these legislative proposals. The result would break communities with decades of cohesion. Together In Atlanta sought a plan that would maintain the community, while not affecting the rights of self-determination or cohesion of other elementary school zones. The result is a map that follows exactly the longstanding DCSD zone boundaries for Fernbank and Briar Vista elementary schools.
TIA has Met with Cityhood Proponents and Recommended Adams Stadium, the former Briarcliff High School, and International Center Complex be Excluded from Annexation
When the LaVista Hills map was recently published, TIA reached out proactively to its organizers to resolve conflicts – including suggesting that the Adams Stadium/former Briarcliff High School/International Center complex be included in the LaVista Hills map, not the Atlanta map. This resolution would preserve those facilities for DCSD students. No families live on that property and therefore the integrity of the Briar Vista community would not be harmed by this resolution maintaining TIA’s principle for keeping the elementary schools together. LaVista Hills gains strength and viability with commercial and educational assets. We expect to have similar conversations with Decatur representatives. We believe there are solutions that meet each party’s needs around the edges of all our maps. Had the Superintendent contacted TIA or others involved in these discussions, he would have been aware that TIA’s has clearly and specifically proposed to exclude the Adams Stadium/former Briarcliff High School/International Center complex.
The challenge for all of us, inside the Atlanta annexation map and outside, is that we each lose a building, while maintaining our community. Inside the map communities lose a Middle School building, outside the map communities lose a High School. Reasonable people can disagree about the organizing principle, however we believe that neighborhoods and communities are defined most directly by Elementary Schools – in terms of property value, identities, volunteerism, and childhood friendships. More importantly, we believe minimizing student disruptions is most important at these early learning stages. So we turn forward and look for solutions to “losses” we face.
1. We will solve the Middle School challenge working with Atlanta Public Schools and our communities; we will work collaboratively and creatively to do so.
2. Communities outside the map have assets with which to face the High School challenge – former Briarcliff High School, Avondale High School, Avondale Middle School, and Druid Hills Middle School are all facilities available and with capacity to create exciting, convenient learning environments in the neighborhoods they serve. There should be no doubt DCSD, working with those communities, could find a way forward as well.
Parents in the Atlanta map area should be aware that of the 1626 students the Superintendent’s presentation claims are displaced, using DCSD’s own numbers 1414 are students within the Fernbank and Briar Vista zone whose parents will be given the opportunity to vote by referendum. The Atlanta Public School system has a much more robust program for school choice, charters, a small school program, learning communities, and other programs that parents can consider and choose. It is regrettable that the Superintendent chose to consider students within the zone as ‘displaced’ as they are more properly going to be given greater choice. The Superintendent’s presentation appears overstated at every possible assertion.
Taxes APS millage including bonds is 21.74 mills; DCSD millage is 23.98 mills. The DCSD comparison does not focus on the bottom line differences to taxpayers and instead focuses on the HOST discount. The Druid Hills Civic Association has published tax information, confirmed with the DeKalb County Tax Commissioner, showing the difference in taxes between current DeKalb and Atlanta. While the Superintendent’s presentation claims increase of up to 60%, the actual tax figures for most taxpayers range from 8% lower in Atlanta to a maximum of 11% higher, with the majority of homes having little or no change. http://druidhills.org/2014/10/15/cityhood-annexation-options-and-their-effects-on-taxes-and-schools/. This analysis shows the cost differences to homeowners and factors in the proper charges and HOST credits. The Superintendent’s analysis is insufficient and does not present the whole story or relevant comparison. Citizens should dig deeper to determine what is in their best interest as taxpayers, parents and citizens. While the Superintendent wanders far afield by bringing police, fire, sanitation and water and sewer services into the discussion (incorrectly assuming continued fire and police service by DeKalb, when fire and police would be provided by Atlanta’s world-class fire and police
departments, with double the personnel at about the same cost to the taxpayer), it is ironic that he ignores the straight costs comparison of the two school systems. DeKalb offers homestead properties $12,500 exemption while APS offers a $30,000 exemption. Moreover, the presentation also took liberty with senior exemptions, comparing Atlanta and DeKalb without acknowledging DeKalb does not apply senior exemptions until age 70, while Atlanta applies exemptions at age 65, amounting to five additional years of payment before receiving any senior exemption. APS has a millage of 21.74 while DeKalb charges 23.98 mills. For most homeowners, Atlanta is a less expensive provider of education services than DeKalb. Moreover the Superintendent’s comparison is wrong or inaccurate when it comes to water and sewer, police and fire and the provision of other municipal services. The Superintendent brings the impact of HOST into the discussion perhaps to skirt the comparison of direct educational costs. HOST has never and will never be applied to school taxes. For countywide services the HOST discount will continue for any areas annexed into Atlanta. In fact, the likelihood that HOST will remain as it is currently configured is doubtful. That the DeKalb Superintendent chose to delve into areas of fire, police, garbage, water and sewer, which are outside the purview, authority, and expertise of the school system is unfortunate, particularly in light of the many pressing and germane issues facing the DeKalb school system. Issues of fire, police, garbage, and water and sewer are better addressed by the governments dedicated to serving those interests.
We believe those with an interest in preserving their elementary school attendance zones should get an opportunity to vote on that interest. We are excited about the success of Atlanta, its trajectory going forward, and its responsiveness in this process. There are questions to be answered and a thorough, transparent process between now and November 2015 (if a referendum is enabled) is essential to inform voters. Our pledge is to provide that access and information and we invite all who have an interest to join us in that work

COVE Report – December 2, 2014

Two Timely Meetings; One Important Topic

Atlanta Annexation of Victoria Estates and Mason Mill

Proposed Atlanta Annexation of Victoria Estates and Mason Mill

Proposed Atlanta Annexation of Victoria Estates and Mason Mill

Please join us for upcoming meetings to discuss the proposal to the City of Atlanta to annex unincorporated parts of DeKalb that include Victoria Estates and Mason Mill.

Mason Mill & Victoria Estates Neighborhood Meeting on Proposed Atlanta Annexation – December 7

Featured Speaker: Together in Atlanta Representatives
Date: Sunday, December 7
Time: 4:00 pm
Place: Intown Community Church
2059 Lavista Rd NE, Atlanta, GA 30329

Together In Atlanta is an effort by parents and residents from several neighborhoods near Emory University and within the Druid Hills High School attendance zone, seeking to achieve annexation into the City of Atlanta, with the public schools within the annexed area becoming part of Atlanta Public Schools. This is the group that presented the current request to the City of Atlanta.

This meeting is being held in conjunction with the Mason Mill Civic Association.

Victoria Estates Neighborhood Meeting on Proposed Atlanta Annexation – December 11

Featured Speaker: Alex Wan, Atlanta City Councilmember
Date: Thursday, December 11
Time: 6:30 pm
Place: Home of Barb Zehnbauer/Tim Buchman
961 Castle Falls Drive NE
Atlanta, GA 30329

Councilmember Alex Wan has served as a member of Atlanta City Council since 2010. He represents District 6, which includes Ansley Park, Atwood Park, Brookwood Hills, Druid Hills, Lindridge/Martin Manor, Midtown, Morningside, Piedmont Heights, Sherwood Forest, Virginia-Highland, Lindbergh/Morosgo. While Councilmember Wan did not draw the map that is currently under discussion, he is a good source for answering questions you may have about the annexation process and the City of Atlanta.

Public Legislative Meeting on LaVista Hills Boundaries – Tomorrow – December 3

DeKalb County Cityhood Subcommittee of Governmental Affairs

The DeKalb County Cityhood Subcommittee of Governmental Affairs is meeting on Wednesday, December 3, 2014 from 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. in the Coverdell Legislative Office Building. At this meeting the committee will hear testimony from representatives from the Tucker and LaVista Hills cityhood organizations. Following the testimony, the committee will take public comment. The panel’s sole charge will be to produce a boundary map no later than December 31 by majority vote of the panel.

WHAT: Public Meeting to hear from cityhood organizations
WHEN: Wednesday, December 3, 2014
1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
WHERE: Coverdell Legislative Office Building
Room 506
18 Capitol Square
Atlanta, Georgia 30334

House DeKalb County Cityhood Subcommittee of Governmental Affairs
Rep. Buzz Brockway (R-Lawrenceville), Chair
Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem)
Rep. Mark Hamilton (R-Cumming)
Rep. Howard Mosby (D-Atlanta)
Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur)

PARKING: Public parking is available at several nearby lots for $5-10.

Town Hall Meeting On Atlanta Annexation – December 8

Updated on 12/7

Municipal Choices Town Hall Meeting – 7:00 pm, Young Israel, 2056 LaVista Rd.

Sponsored by LaVista Park, Merry Hills, North Druid Hills, & North Amanda civic associations.

The municipal boundary choices overlapping our neighborhoods (alphabetically arranged):
Brookhaven annexation
City of Atlanta annexation
LaVista Hills new city
Unincorporated DeKalb County
The following panel has confirmed they will attend the meeting:

Rep. Howard Mosby, House District 83, Boundary Arbitration Committee
Mary Margaret Oliver, House District 82, Boundary Arbitration Committee
Lee May, DeKalb Interim CEO
Kathie Gannon, DeKalbDist. 6 Commissioner
Jeff Rader, DeKalb Dist 2 Commissioner
Joe Gebbia, Brookhaven Dist. 4 Councilman
Alex Wan, City Of Atlanta Dist. 6 Councilman
Mary Kay Woodworth, LaVista Hills
Allen Vennet, LaVista Hills
Matt Lewis, Together in Atlanta
Anne Wallace, Together in Atlanta

The meeting agenda:
Introductions (5 minutes)
Statements from the moderator, legislative delegation, and each municipalization choice group (25 minutes)
Moderated question-answer session (60 minutes)
Concluding remarks (10 minutes)
Adjourn
The questions to be discussed:
What is the process to select which proposals will be available to each neighborhood? Who will reconcile all of the overlapping municipal proposals and annexations? If we choose to remain unincorporated, what municipal choices will we have in the future?
How would each choice affect property and sales tax? Who will get the taxes? How viable are the choices?
What schools will our children attend with each choice? What will happen to DeKalb school property if I’m in a city?
What will happen to the Briarcliff/ North Druid Hills Tax Allocation District? Who will fund and perform transportation and other infrastructure improvements and long term maintenance?
Who will fund and provide police? Where will the precinct be located?
Who will fund improvements and maintain our Parks and Recreation services?
How will Zoning and Code Enforcement function?
Will other services be affected?
Additional questions from the audience will be screened for relevance and may be presented by the moderator.
Thank you for agreeing to attend. We look forward to a valuable, informative evening together.
Best regards,
Dan Wright
404-395-7126

Atlanta council weighs in on annexation possibilities

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed Support Annexation

http://www.myajc.com/news/news/local-govt-politics/atlanta-council-weighs-in-on-annexation-possibilit/njGcP/

By Katie Leslie – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has made public his support for annexing Druid Hills and a portion of south Fulton, two areas on the edges of town that are now in heavy talks about their respective futures.
In recent weeks, he has made overtures to the Sandtown community in Fulton and welcomed a group of Druid Hills homeowners who are considering joining Atlanta. Reed recently said the neighborhoods are interested and he views that as “a favorable commentary on the state of the city.”

City council members are likely weighing political impact as they mull potential annexations that would expand Atlanta.
For Reed, the annexations could be the crown jewels of his two terms, an exclamation point on his leadership before yielding his office to Atlanta’s next mayor. After all, the potential annexations would be the city’s largest since the early 1950s, when Atlanta added Buckhead, Bolton, Adamsville, Lakewood Heights and others.
Atlanta’s expansion also could have a political impact, one city leaders are sure to consider when deciding whether to support the growth.
“You brought in a mayor with the last annexation,” said District 11 Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms, who along with Reed was eligible to run for Atlanta office after their southwest neighborhood was annexed in the mid-2000s. “It remains to be seen, but I do know history repeats itself. (Our annexation) meant a tremendous amount to the city, not just the expansion of the boundaries but the people involved in the politics of the city.”
Bottoms has played a key role in talks with south Fulton residents, who are largely divided over the issue. Some have expressed support for forming a new city, while a handful of neighborhoods are pushing toward joining Atlanta. Reed sweetened the pot in recent weeks by suggesting the Sandtown community could receive a 10-year property tax freeze.
Bottoms said it’s too soon to know just how many residents could potentially become Atlantans.
Meanwhile, a group of residents in Druid Hills are lobbying to join Atlanta after the DeKalb County School district rejected a charter school “cluster” of Druid Hills High and other schools. The community recently submitted to state leaders a proposed map that joins their area with Atlanta and includes Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With the annexation would come as many as 26,000 voters, according to several people involved in the discussions.
Bottoms, a second-term councilwoman, said she’d support annexing both communities, which historically have high-voter participation rates.
The neighborhoods have dramatically different racial compositions. South Fulton would bring a majority black voting bloc, while Druid Hills is majority white. And that, says District 9 Councilwoman Felicia Moore, is the “underlying current” of annexation discussions.
“Of course, everything is about race in Atlanta,” she said, with a laugh. “… I’m sure there are people who want to make sure it keeps a balance so that, if we do bring in Druid Hills, there be a complement of black persons who are included in the city as well.”
Moore said her decision on whether to support annexations comes down to fiscal, and not political matters. She said she wants to see more details about whether Atlanta can afford the additional costs of expanding services.
“I always like to look at things from a fiscal standpoint,” she said. “I think there needs to be some discussion that, if we decide to annex either or both, that it makes good fiscal sense not just for them but for all citizens of Atlanta.”
District 5 Councilwoman Natalyn Archibong agreed that, when it comes to annexations, “the devil is in the details.” New residents must decide whether they want their children to attend Atlanta Public Schools and will be subject to new taxes.
“I do think Atlanta is a very attractive city so wanting to join makes a whole lot of sense,” she said. “We should be looking at the possibilities.”
District 2 Councilman Kwanza Hall, who along with Bottoms and Council President Ceasar Mitchell is considered a likely candidate for mayor, also said he’d support annexing both.
Hall, originally from southwest Atlanta, represents one of Atlanta’s most diverse districts, an area covering Old Fourth Ward and Inman Park. A portion of Druid Hills could be added to his district, as well as District 6 Councilman Alex Wan’s.
In Hall’s view, there’s little downside to adding Druid Hills, which he describes as affluent, educated group.
“As a councilmember for an area that is not majority African-American, and having run and been elected twice … it has been a positive thing in terms of not being judged based on my racial background,” said Hall, who is black. “It’s similar to a district and to the people that I already represent.”
Myriad hurdles remain before either group can move forward, city leaders urged. State leaders must settle on a proposed Druid Hills map and then authorize a referendum that could come as early as November 2015. The referendum would have to pass by a majority vote of residents inside the borders of the affected areas.
South Fulton residents are trying to join Atlanta in a different way, by winning support through the petition form of annexation. This method requires 60 percent approval from registered voters and land owners by mass. Those groups would then submit the petition to Atlanta leaders to decide whether to annex.
And both groups must also sort out whether their children will attend Atlanta Public Schools. The Atlanta council will ultimately be asked to sign-off on the new communities.
Wan, who has been in active talks with Druid Hills for well over a year, said it’s similar to the Virginia Highland and Morningside neighborhoods in his district. He sees adding the area as a boon to the city’s tax base and a way to bolster economies of scale.
He’s less focused on the political implications of annexing the area, he said.
“I’m not naive. I’m sure there are folks considering (the politics),” he said. “Politics will always be politics and enter the process, but there are folks who are way better at it than I. … I’m better focused on the merits of the proposition.”
Staff writers David Wickert and Kelly Yamanouchi contributed to this report.