DeKalb Commission to call for cityhood impact study as Greenhaven moves through legislature

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The Gist: As the proposed City of Greenhaven in south DeKalb makes its way through the state legislature again, DeKalb County is expected to call for a study Tuesday of how new cities impact the county’s ability to deliver services.

The Cost: The study will cost $86,000 and will be completed by the Carl Vinson Institute.

Why fund a study?: Ever since Sandy Springs won its long-fought incorporation battle, new cities have been cropping up so fast that it is becoming impossible to determine which city is now “Georgia’s newest city,” a moniker each new city likes to boast on promotional materials. In DeKalb alone, Dunwoody, Brookhaven, Tucker and Stonecrest have all incorporated in the last 10 years. Greenhaven isn’t the only proposed new city in the county either. Another proposal would carve out the city of Vista Grove, which would run just southeast of Brookhaven, Chamblee and Doraville.

The county is concerned that the new city’s will take necessary revenue away from the county that it needs to provide services to unincorporated areas and those new cities. While some cities create their own services for police and fire, the county is still on the hook for court services, county parks that fall within the city limits and trash and recycling services. The study is designed to determine whether or not new cities are depleting the county’s ability to serve its citizens.

Where is Greenhaven?: If Greenhaven were to become a city, it would have a huge population on day one. according to Imagine Greenhaven, the advocacy group for the proposed city, the population estimate within the new city’s boundaries was 294,000 in 2015. The group describes the area of Greenhaven as covering “all area south of U.S. Route 78 until it hits I-285 and then all area south of Memorial Drive until it hits the eastern border of DeKalb County excluding all incorporated cities within these boundaries.”

The process: The state legislature can’t just make a new city. However, it has to approve the proposed city’s charter before any formal plans can move forward. If the legislature approves the charter, the residents who live within the boundaries of the proposed city will have a chance to vote on whether or not they want cityhood. If the residents vote in favor of the new city, they have to head to the polls again before the city opens for business to elect a mayor and council members. Right now, the bill is a house second reader. It hasn’t been passed yet. If it isn’t passed by the house by crossover day, the bill will die and will need to be refiled next session. If it does pass the house by crossover day, the senate will have to vote on it.

Can it happen?: Based on the recent history of incorporations in Georgia, the odds are in Greenhaven’s favor. However, based on Greenhaven’s prior track record, it may not happen this year. The Greenhaven bill isn’t new to the state legislature. It has been filed for the last four years and hasn’t passed yet.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Greenhaven Charter Problems :

    1) There is no specified salary designated for the Greenhaven mayor.

    2) There is a waiver for retired county employee to work for new proposed city, to waive the state law that prohibits double dipping.

    3) The CAPU is a slush fund and is another level of bureaucracy that should be removed from the charter. It does not work and has very little evidence of working in the City of Atlanta. If you look at the neighborhoods and the kinds of stores, schools and crime in Atlanta. Instead of the powerless CAPUs there should be more council districts to represent the people with real legislative power. The CAPUs Community Area Planning Units do not have any legal authority or power.

    4) There is no provision to prevent a person from serving in two capacities, similar to what happened with District 5 and ICEO Lee May serving.

    5. There economic development office and the power to obligate bonds is under the mayor’s office and does not require the city council approval.

    6. The charter does not address the intergovernmental costs and administrative overhead for a full service city.

    7. There is no adequate succession plan in terms of vacancies and what constitutes a vacancy. The same thing that happened in DeKalb County could have in the proposed new city if a person is found guilty of a crime.

    8. There is no term limit for Mayor. There should be a 2 term limit, a total of 8 years. No matter how the person becomes mayor.

    9. The council person can serve 4 terms which is a 12 years consecutively. There are no restrictions for them running again after sitting out a term. There should be a two term limit for both Mayor and Council persons.

    10. Another problem with the Greenhaven city charter is that it has only 6 council districts. Each council person would represent 50,000 residents, in addition, there is one at large at large city council president. The city of Atlanta which has a population 450,000, and it has 12 council districts, council president and 3 at large council seats. The City of Atlanta ratio is 1 council 37,000 whereas the Greenhaven representation ratio would be 1 council person for every 50,000 residents.

    https://www.facebook.com/crossroadsnews/posts/1096022370417604

  2. The City of Greenhaven will only cover three services:
    – Zoning
    – Parks
    – Code Enforcement

    All other services will come from Deklab County:

    – tax assessor
    – tax commissioner
    – superior court
    – juvenile court
    – probate court
    – health department
    – coroner
    – animal control
    – sheriff
    – marshal
    – health insurance and retirement benefits for all of the personnel required
    to operate all of the above agencies
    – water
    – police
    – fire protection
    – emergency ambulance
    – street repair
    – garbage collection
    – solid waste disposal
    – traffic court
    – health insurance and retirement benefits for all of the personnel required
    to operate all of the above agencies
    – etc.

  3. According to the (Dekalb) county budget department, the new cities are contributing to the county pension plan, though not to the same extent as if they had not become a city. The typical portion that new cities may not be equally contributing to are police and designated services if new cities are providing their own services in those areas. All the other county funds contribute to the pension.

    http://www.decaturish.com/2015/06/dear-decaturish-cityhood-does-not-equal-prosperity/
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  4. If Dunwoody and Brookhaven hadn’t become cities, those areas would owe the county a combined $2.5 million more each year toward unfunded pension liabilities, according to an analysis by Segal Consulting conducted for DeKalb. Cities still contribute roughly 75 percent of their areas’ share of previous pension liabilities because their residents pay county taxes for services like fire, libraries, sheriffs, jail, courts, water and sewer.

    http://www.myajc.com/news/local-govt–politics/new-cities-might-escape-dekalb-pension-debts/M21FBkJ9FvfJJor3AcUnGP/

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