A study shows (click here to download the PDF) a city of Brookhaven could be created without raising homeowners’ property taxes.
The nonprofit organization Citizens for North DeKalb released on Nov. 7 the long-anticipated study it commissioned the Carl Vinson Institute at the University of Georgia to conduct on the feasibility of incorporating a city of Brookhaven.
About a week later, on Nov. 15, the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners asked state lawmakers to stop the creation of new cities in DeKalb so officials can conduct a separate study on annexation and incorporation.
“This puts the Board of Commissioners on the record supporting a study of the implications of annexation and new incorporation in the county, which is an element that is noticeably missing in the current process of sort of unilateral incorporation,” DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader said.
The Vinson Institute study estimates that a city of Brookhaven would have annual revenues of approximately $28.5 million and expenditures of $25.1 million, leaving an approximate surplus of $3.4 million each year, if it collected property taxes at the same level as DeKalb County currently does.
Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Atlanta, who represents a portion of the study area and who has authored legislation to create the city, believes the results of the study mean a city of Brookhaven may even be able to cut taxes below the amount residents of the area currently pay.
“The proposed city of Brookhaven does not need 6.39 mills – or anything close to it – in order to provide a high level of service in the areas of police, parks and recreation, roads and drainage, and planning, zoning, and land use,” Jacobs said in a email to constituents. “Furthermore, the city of Brookhaven is envisioned to provide a higher level of service than DeKalb County currently provides to our community.”
The study calculated the costs of a future city of Brookhaven by looking at Dunwoody and Johns Creek, two cities of similar size that were incorporated in recent years. Like those cities, a city of Brookhaven would probably outsource many of its city services to private contractors, members of the nonprofit group said.
The citizens group asked the Vinson Institute to use the city of Roswell as a model to study the costs of parks maintenance because of the north Fulton County city’s reputation for an excellent parks and recreation system.
Citizens for North DeKalb president Doug Dykhuizen said one of the main things residents in the Brookhaven area want to see is better maintenance for the area’s 250 acres of parkland. The study concluded that about $1.3 million would be spent on parks maintenance. DeKalb now spends about $480,000, the study said.
“Parks are a particularly valuable asset that not everybody has,” Dykhuizen said.
Crunching the ‘city’ numbers
If a city of Brookhaven is approved in the area studied by the Carl Vinson Institute, it would take in about 12 square miles and would be the most populous city in DeKalb County. The institute says a city could operate using the same property tax millage rate DeKalb now collects in the area. Here are estimates of revenues and expenses for the proposed city as reported by the Vinson Institute.
White 52 percent
Black 11 percent
Hispanic 30 percent
Other 7 percent
Median income $56,231
Poverty percentage 12 percent
Occupation taxes $1,131,938
Beverage excise taxes 497,457
Personal property taxes 431,917
Hotel/motel taxes 317,964
Hotel/motel taxes (restricted to tourism) 211,794
Business licenses – police 216,469
Business licenses – beverages 159,346
Bank shares tax 65,155
Development fund 522,500
Zoning and variance fees and permits 10,187
Insurance premiums 2,252,101
Fines and forfeitures 1,061,669
Storm water fund 1,455,897
Motor vehicle taxes 346,900
Law enforcement – confiscated monies fund 241,034
Parking and rental 28,302
Sale of printed material 27,348
Homestead Option Sales Taxes 5,007,194
State grant- community development block grant 294,636
Franchise fees – cable 503,090
Franchise fees – electric 2,406,721
Franchise fees – natural gas 248,483
Franchise fees – phone 149,040
2010 real property taxes (3.5 mills) 5,229,963
Penalties at 2010 level 22,761
2011 real property taxes (6.39 mills) 9,927,881
Penalties at 2011 level 43,207
Total revenue estimate
At 2010 tax level (3.5 mills) 23,810,619
At 2011 tax level (6.39 mills) 28,528,983
City Council $215,093
City manager 408,260
General operations 2,035,399
Legal department 280,372
City Clerk 151,991
Human resources 137,726
Community development 2,701,897
Debt interest from TAN 101,327
Facility leases 592,592
Facility maintenance 34,923
Municipal court 295,620
Public works 3,610,978
Storm water 1,455,897
Total operating costs 1,311,237
Annual capital for roads, drainage and parks 2,940,323
Police capital and general startup 831,682
Total annual expenditures 25,083,242
Deficit based on 2010 property tax estimates – 1,272,623
Surplus based on 2011 property tax estimates +3,445,741
Source: Revenue and Expenditure Estimates for a Proposed City of Brookhaven, Carl Vinson Institute of Government