Information crucial before cityhood decision
By, Elena Parent, Georgia House of Representatives
Our community is currently engaged in a debate about whether it would be wise to incorporate a new city of Brookhaven in DeKalb County, annex portions of unincorporated DeKalb into the neighboring cities of Dunwoody or Chamblee, or remain in unincorporated DeKalb County.
Legislation that would enable the incorporation of a new city of Brookhaven in DeKalb County or the annexation of portions of unincorporated DeKalb into the neighboring cities of Dunwoody or Chamblee has been introduced at the state Legislature.
A map showing the proposed city of Brookhaven can be found at http://www.citizensfornorthdekalb.org/documents/city_map.pdf. The city of Brookhaven as it is currently proposed would include both the “green” and the “yellow” areas on this map. Within the boundaries of the proposed new city, I represent the neighborhoods of Drew Valley and most of Ashford Park, and I am myself a resident of Ashford Park.
Currently, a civic group called Citizens for North DeKalb, Inc., has been formed. The group’s mission is to explore the feasibility of incorporation or annexation, and to raise funds for the purpose of gathering information and educating the community on the viability of the four potential options.
The next step is to raise the necessary funds for a feasibility study to be conducted by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia. A “feasibility study” is a study that identifies the potential revenues and expenses of the targeted geographic area in order to determine the potential success of a municipal incorporation or annexation. See www.citizensfornorthdekalb.org.
My current stance as to the incorporation proposal is neutral.
To begin with, until a feasibility study is completed, we are operating without knowledge of what sort of tax levels would be required, or available, to fund municipal services. Secondly, I see both pros and cons of incorporation or annexation.
Therefore, as an elected official, I feel that I currently best serve my constituents by educating them about the proposals so that they may make an informed decision should they be asked to vote on one or more proposals at a future date.
It appears that the majority of the individuals I represent who could be included in a new city of Brookhaven favor the status quo of remaining in unincorporated DeKalb.
I conducted an informal poll in April to assess the attitude of Ashford Park and Drew Valley residents toward incorporation or annexation, and found that 52 precent of the 88 respondents were in favor of remaining in unincorporated DeKalb, 23 percent were in favor of exploring options and felt no decision could be made without more information; 18 percent favored incorporation as the city of Brookhaven; 5 percent viewed either incorporation or annexation favorably, and 2 percent were interested in annexing into Chamblee.
I’m the first to admit that when this idea was proposed, I had a number of questions about what exactly incorporation would mean for myself and my constituents. I had a basic understanding of what services DeKalb County provides to those of us in unincorporated DeKalb and what services would probably be provided by a new city. I had only a vague understanding of how our property tax bills are calculated and what comprises the total taxes paid.
Having gained more knowledge about these topics in the past few months, I realize how critical such knowledge is to making an informed decision regarding whether or not to incorporate or annex. What would be the tax ramifications? How do taxes currently compare in unincorporated DeKalb, Chamblee and Dunwoody, and other cities in DeKalb County? What would be the benefits of incorporation — and what about possible negative consequences?
In conjunction with the Ashford Park Civic Association and the Drew Valley Civic Association, I am holding a forum on these and other related topics on June 29 from 7 until 9 p.m. at Lupton Auditorium at Oglethorpe University, 4484 Peachtree Road, NE, Atlanta, 30319.
In attendance to inform and educate our community will be representatives from the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, the Georgia Municipal Association, the Georgia General Assembly, the City of Chamblee, and DeKalb County.
I hope that residents of the proposed city of Brookhaven will attend to find out the facts about how your municipal services are currently provided, what would change under an incorporation or annexation, the process we would go through to effectuate an annexation or incorporation, and some of the pros and cons of changing our form of government.
Elena Parent represents District 81 in the Georgia House of Representatives.