January 26: DeKalb County Presents Legislative Agenda to Delegation…Sort of
Martha Pacini – February 13
On January 26, members of the DeKalb County legislative delegation, the DeKalb County CEO’s office, the CEO’s leadership team, at least four county commissioners, numerous lobbyists and more than a few interested citizens crowded into room 605 at the Coverdell Legislative Office Building to review DeKalb County’s legislative agenda. It seems, however, that the county commission had not yet approved the legislative agenda—two of the commissioners, Kathie Gannon and Jeff Rader, said they had not seen it—nor did it incorporate the final recommendations of the Operations Task Force, which the legislative delegation discovered by asking questions about whether the legislative agenda had been driven by the task force recommendations.
Nonetheless, the presentation proceeded. With assistance from the County’s new program developed by Georgia Tech, Interim CEO Lee May was able to outline for the first time the real cost impacts of annexation and incorporation on the county. This demonstration highlighted the effect on the county of having large swaths of commercial/industrial property annexed or drawn into new city lines, because these properties generally pay more in taxes than they receive in services.
Following this demonstration, ICEO May outlined his six primary recommendations, although they were not yet approved by the county commission:
(1) The formation of a charter review commission;
(2) Ethics board reform;
(3) The formation of an independent internal audit function;
(4) The development of a purchasing policy that would be approved by the commission once developed by the administration;
(5) The development of a special tax district to provide funding for unfunded legacy costs as a result of annexation/incorporation;
(6) HOST reform, with a potential SPLOST to fund infrastructure projects.
The ICEO also requested a hiatus on annexations and incorporations for a year.
He also suggested that there could be a possible sharing of the “city portion” of non-residential property tax revenues when new cities are incorporated to help offset the impact of the new cities on the rest of the county.
While the intent of the recommendations was well received, most meeting attendees noted the lack of formal approval by the county commission and the absence of coordination with the task force recommendations.
Google Fiber Coming to Atlanta, Decatur, Avondale… (Victoria Estates?)
Google announced it has selected Atlanta and certain surrounding cities to provide its new super high speed internet (and TV). With speeds an average of 100 times faster than typical internet, this brings great competition for an important service.
Victoria Estates is not currently included in the proposed service area, but you can “vote” for Victoria Estates by visiting the Google fiber site. Click here. Simply type your street address and enter your (free) google email address, and it will register as a request for Victoria Estates. Google is recording your responses to determine which neighborhoods to extend to.
Thanks to COVE board member David Woolf for bringing this to our attention.
City of Decatur Officially Announces Google Fiber, Answers “What’s Next?”
NPR Story about Municipal Broadband
City Annexation/Incorporation Plans: How They Might Affect Victoria Estates
Martha Pacini – February 13
The City of Decatur has announced plans to annex property that includes the commercial property at the intersection of North Decatur and Clairmont (http://www.decaturish.com/2014/12/decatur-commission-approves-annexation-plan/). Several neighborhood associations have registered their objections to the plan, including the Druid Hills Civic Association, the Clairmont Heights Civic Association and the Medlock Area Neighborhood Association. Their concerns, as stated by the Druid Hills Civic Association, center on “any city annexation proposal that includes a significant amount of commercial property while excluding the surrounding residential area, thereby reducing the tax base needed to support that residential area.”
For Victoria Estates residents, we might think that this issue has no affect on us, and therefore we have nothing to do with it. Consider this, though. When commercial property is annexed or drawn into city boundaries two things happen, both of which have a disproportionate effect on unincorporated DeKalb County, including Victoria Estates.
First, because commercial properties are considered “donor” properties, they generally pay more in taxes than they cost in providing services. For this reason, both the county and cities covet them. When a city annexes or incorporates a commercial area that was previously in an unincorporated part of the county, a percentage of the property taxes are shifted to the city in exchange for the city’s taking on a certain number of services, usually parks, permitting, road maintenance, code enforcement, and sometimes police. When a commercial area is annexed or incorporated, the county’s ability to use the surplus thrown off by commercial properties to offset the costs of providing services to the residential properties is compromised, and this becomes especially apparent when commercial property is annexed without the residential property that abuts it.
Second, commercial properties are the source of sales taxes for HOST, 20 percent of which goes toward capital maintenance (think: roads, sidewalks & bridges). When a commercial property is within a city, the capital improvement portion of the sales tax goes predominantly toward city improvements. And, if the residential property surrounding the commercial property isn’t annexed, then the funds needed for proper maintenance of the area are not supported by the sales tax the neighborhoods are spending at the commercial property, but are instead left to the county to fund.
If this is an issue that concerns you, consider contacting your state legislative delegation and making your concerns known. The email list for the entire legislative delegation is on the COVE website, and we know that legislators do pay attention to their emails.
In addition, Leadership DeKalb is hosting a breakfast on Tuesday, February 24, at Georgia Piedmont Technical College on cityhood and annexation. http://www.leadershipdekalb.org/2015/01/cityhood-annexation-just-the-facts/
Several people from Victoria Estates will be attending this meeting, which costs $30 for non-members. If you are interested in carpooling, please contact Martha Pacini or Pat Killingsworth.
Georgia Legislative Session 2015: Email Your Opinion to 3 Who Matter
Martha Pacini – February 14
New city bills are in the works during the 2015 Georgia legislative session. While Victoria Estates is not currently included in any maps for new cities, things change quickly…even overnight, as we all discovered last year. Thanks to some sleuthing by one of our neighbors, we have come to understand that there are three people in addition to the DeKalb Legislative Delegation that you should make sure know where you live and what you want regarding Victoria Estates and new city formation.
In addition to writing to the DeKalb Legislative Delegation [Carl has been nice enough to put a link here to their email addresses], plan to write as well to the following three people:
• Representative Ed Rynders, Chair of the House Governmental Affairs Committee, email@example.com. The Governmental Affairs Committee handles all new city formation bills.
• Representative John Meadows, Chair of the House Rules Committee, firstname.lastname@example.org. Representative Meadows was a main figure in last year’s delay of the new city formation.
• Speaker David Ralston, Speaker of the House of Representatives, email@example.com. He should be addressed as Mr. Speaker or Speaker Ralston in any correspondence.
A few pointers for your emails:
• In the subject line, put why you are writing: The formation of new cities in DeKalb County.
• Be aware that this is for new cities only. Annexations are considered local legislation and go through the DeKalb delegation.
• Write individually to each person, even if it is a cut-and-paste. It will have more impact.
• State clearly in the first sentence where you live and why you are writing—“I am a ___-year resident of Victoria Estates in Central DeKalb County, and I am writing in favor/against the formation of the new city of ___.”
• Include your name and address at the end.
Writing to your elected officials does matter. During the “line-drawing” exercise to divide LaVista Hills and Tucker, the chair of the subcommittee heat-mapped every email he received so that he could tell where they were coming from and what they wanted. He used this heat map to draw the lines.
It helps COVE members to represent the neighborhood better if we know what our neighbors are thinking, so if you feel comfortable with it, please share with us a copy of your email. Post here at victoriaestates.info or email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Georgia Legislative Navigator
AJC Legislative Navigator: a daily journal of all votes and all changes in bill status to track day-by-day the legislature’s progress. Click for more
The DeKalb Board of Education Superintendent Public Survey
The DeKalb Board of Education has an online survey for input and feedback. The link includes a timeline for the selection process and a calendar of events. Click for more
Dear Decaturish – The wrong people were in the room
Decaturish.com – Steve Perkins – February 9, 2015
The “Meeting notes” leaked by the Druid Hills Charter Cluster community are fascinating and stupefying in the same instant. Click for more
Druid Hills Charter Cluster officially disbands
Decaturish.com – Dan Whisenhunt – February 12, 2015
The board met on Feb. 10 and voted to dissolve Druid Hills Charter Cluster Inc. The group’s announcement comes after a recent attempt to restart discussions about the charter cluster idea with DeKalb County Superintendent Michael Thurmond. Click for more
Druid Hills High School student: Annexation will wipe out what made my school great
AJC – Maureen Downey – February 9, 2015
Druid Hills High School senior Jacob Pierce shares his view of the proposed neighborhood annexation that would splinter his high school. Click for more
Druid Hills annexation into Atlanta: ‘An opportunity to join a city on the ascent’
AJC – Maureen Downey – February 9, 2015
Natalie DiSantis is a past resident of Atlanta who now resides in the unincorporated DeKalb community seeking annexation into Atlanta. She supports Together In Atlanta… Click for more
Cityhood/County Initiative Links
Seeking comprehensive solutions as big as our problems. Governmental transparency is a must. Citizens’ voices count.
DeKalb Strong supports a moratorium on city hood and annexation proposals in DeKalb County to give citizens time to participate in a deliberative, comprehensive, and equitable process for improving DeKalb County governance.
LakesideYES and the City of Briarcliff Initiative have collaborated to create a one-city solution for our area of North/Central DeKalb County.
Together In Atlanta is a grassroots effort by neighbors who are seeking annexation into the City of Atlanta.