Brookhaven’s $40 million parks bond appears to have been approved by voters with 60 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results from DeKalb County Registration & Elections. With 12 of 12 precincts reporting, the “yes” votes tallied in at 12,352 and the “no” votes came in at 40 8,258 votes. Total votes cast came in at 20,610.
“The residents of Brookhaven have delivered a clear mandate for us to follow through with our city founders’ vision of a top-notch park system that can be enjoyed in the near-term,” Mayor John Ernst said in a written statement. “With the funding in place, we can now make it happen.”
The City Council voted in July to put the parks bond on the ballot. City officials said after the loss of the homestead option sales tax this year, there was no funding to make improvement to city parks without debt financing.
Money from the parks bond will fund several parks master plan projects: Ashford Park, $1.94 million; Blackburn Park, $1.3 million; Briarwood Park, $7 million; Brookhaven Park, $6 million; Lynwood Park, $11 million; Murphey Candler Park, $8.98 million; and systemwide funding for security, maintenance and invasive plant removal, among other things, $3.47 million.
J.D. Clockadale, co-chair of the Yes for Brookhaven Parks campaign, said in a written statement the capital project improvements to come from the funding will be “transformative investments that will benefit children, families and anyone who enjoys being outside.”
“We have full confidence in the city’s planing process and look forward to seeing the results come to life in the months and years to come,” Clockadale added.
An opposition effort surfaced in the final days of the campaign, with an anonymous mailer sent to homeowners calling the parks bond a “boondoggle” and an anonymous website. The Yes for Brookhaven group raised the question of possible campaign finance law violations but said they have no plans to file an ethics complaint.
Sue Binkert, chair of the Parks and Recreation Coalition of Brookhaven, worked on an ad hoc funding task force with city administrators that resulted in the $40 million parks bond. She and three other members of the ad hoc task force eventually publicly opposed the bond, saying it was too costly and included projects not approved in the master planning process.
“The voters have made their decision and PARC will continue to advocate for the parks in Brookhaven,” she said. “We look forward to continuing a dialogue with the city for funding for our parks.”
Next steps after the vote begin immediately with city officials set to develop this week criteria and application forms for nominations for the Citizens Oversight Committee. Committee members are expected to have some knowledge of construction projects, according to city officials.
At the City Council’s Nov. 13 meeting, the council is slated to authorize a $40 million bond resolution. The council is expected at the meeting to issue a request for proposals for program management services. Funding perimeter fencing at Blackburn Park is also expected to be approved as well finalizing a $2 million agreement with DeKalb County for the front half of Brookhaven Park, according to a spokesperson.
A call for nominations for the Citizens Oversight Committee will also be made at the Nov. 13 meeting.
After Nov. 13, city administrators will evaluate applications and recommend members to serve on the Citizens Oversight Committee to be approved by the council.
The city plans to issue request for proposals for the Brookhaven Park/Peachtree Road entrance, following approval of the Brookhaven Park master plan that is expected to happen in December, according to the city.
Also in December, the city will go to DeKalb Superior Court to validate the bonds and in January the city expects to issue the bonds.
The parks bond will raise the city’s 2.74 millage rate by half a mill, or an average of $98.34 a year to the homeowner with a home assessed at about $466,000, according to city officials. The millage rate is used to determine local taxes and is the amount taxpayers pay per $1,000 of assessed value. The parks bond will be paid off over 30 years.
Parks bond supporters said homeowners’ overall tax bills won’t go up due to other taxation changes this year. The city millage increase would be offset by this year’s new equalized homestead option sales tax. The EHOST dedicates 100 percent of its revenue to reduce property taxes for qualified homeowners, according to DeKalb officials.
And in 2021 when a DeKalb County parks bond expires and rolls off property taxes for Brookhaven homeowners, city officials are estimating an overall savings of about $514 for homeowners with $466,000 homes.
This story has been updated.