Monday, December 10, 2012

City-Do List

Part of weighing the pro's and con's of cityhood involves a discussion of what services a new city would provide and whether current service levels are sufficient to meet the needs of residents.  Did you know that Georgia law requires a city to provide at least three of eleven enumerated services in order to keep its charter active?

Here's the law and the list from the Georgia Code:

O.C.G.A. § 36-30-7.1 (b).

§ 36-30-7.1. Inactive municipalities

(a) On and after July 1, 1995, any municipal corporation in this state shall be deemed an inactive municipality and its charter shall be repealed by operation of law if the municipal corporation fails to meet any of the minimum standards provided in subsection (b) of this Code section for determining an active municipality.

(b) An active municipality is any incorporated municipality in this state the governing body of which meets each of the following minimum standards:

(1) Provides at least three of the following services, either directly or by contract:

(A) Law enforcement;

(B) Fire protection (which may be furnished by a volunteer fire force) and fire safety;

(C) Road and street construction or maintenance;

(D) Solid waste management;

(E) Water supply or distribution or both;

(F) Waste-water treatment;

(G) Storm-water collection and disposal;

(H) Electric or gas utility services;

(I) Enforcement of building, housing, plumbing, and electrical codes and other similar codes;

(J) Planning and zoning; and

(K) Recreational facilities;

(2) Holds at least six regular, monthly or bimonthly, officially recorded public meetings within the 12 months next preceding the execution of the certificate required by subsection (c) of this Code section; and

(3) Qualifies for and holds a regular municipal election as provided by law, other than a municipality which has a governing authority comprised of commissioners or other members who are appointed by a judge of the superior court.

A few questions to ponder:

Is there a need to provide additional or different services in northern DeKalb?    If so, what are they?  

Are you satisfied with the current levels of service you are receiving?  If not, what changes would you like to see?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Speakers Set for January Pro/Con Panel on Cityhood

Great news!  We have a pro/con panel on the issue of cityhood set to take place on Tuesday, January 8, from 7-9 p.m. at the Oak Grove United Methodist Church.  (See event flyer below for the meeting address and additional information.)

A majority of those who attended last month's informational meeting requested a pro/con panel to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of creating cities in DeKalb, so this is your meeting.

The panelists include will include: State Reps. Billy Mitchell and Tom Taylor, DeKalb County Commissioner Kathie Gannon and former Dunwoody Councilman Robert Wittenstein

Please note that questions for the panelists submitted in advance of the 
meeting will receive priority and that the meeting will end promptly at 9 p.m.

As with our last meeting, please consider bringing a food donation for the Church's hunger project  to express our appreciation for the Church's generosity in hosting our meeting.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

"Who Are We?"

The title of this post gets its name from a fair question posed by a member of the audience at Monday's cityhood meeting at the Oak Grove United Methodist Church.

Before we could begin to know whether cityhood makes sense, we have to know the area(s) that might be considered to create a new city.  So, folks, "who are we?"

Post your maps, drawings and written suggestions for which areas make the most sense to you as the boundaries of a new city.

While you're at it, why not share your reasoning?  Is it a strong community of interest?  A strong mixture of commercial/industrial and residential property in a contiguous and reasonably shaped area?  What makes sense about the boundaries you chose?

Ask yourself: "Who are we?"

A City by Any Other Name

I realize that this is putting the cart before the horse, but just for fun, what would you name a new city if it was centered in northern DeKalb?

PS If you are interested in receiving direct communication on the cityhood issue, please send your contact information (name, email address and any other contact information you wish to provide) to kevinlevitas[at]

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Any Questions?

As a follow-up to this week's first cityhood meeting, we are hoping to put together a "pro" and "con" panel in the next few weeks.  Stay tuned for more details.

In meantime, if you have questions that you would like to ask the panel, please feel free to post them here.  We will get to as many as we can within the time permitted.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Cityhood Meeting Summary

Last night, about fifty neighbors gathered to hear a presentation by Sen. Fran Millar, Rep. Tom Taylor and former Sen. Dan Weber about the ins and outs of forming a new city.

The discussion was lively and informative, and another meeting is planned for the near future for a discussion of the pro's and con's of city formation in our area.  Stay tuned for details...

Below is a summary based on my notes of both the presentation and some comments from neighbors in attendance.  The summary is merely as a reiteration of the discussion.  You will have to decide issues of accuracy (both as to my notes and as to the contents of the discussion) for yourself.  [Please forgive the somewhat confusion numbering scheme below, but as a newbie to blogging, I am hamstrung by how this site's outline form works.]
  1. County Versus City Services: a Non-Exhaustive List
    1. Traditional county services
      1. Jails
      2. Office of the Sheriff
      3. Courts
      4. Roads
    2. Traditional city services
      1. Police
      2. Parks
      3. Zoning
      4. Roads
    3. Property taxes pay for approximately 25% of total county revenue
  2. City Revenues
    1. Traditional city revenue items
      1. Business licenses
      2. Hotel taxes
      3. Ad valorem taxes
      4. HOST proceeds
    2. Unincorporated DeKalb residents are currently paying city revenue taxes as a "special services" line item on their tax bills. HOST proceeds in DeKalb offset the "special services" fee.
  3. Changes Resulting from Incorporation 
    1. Any new city would still pay for certain county services and could (but is not required to) contract with other cities or counties (including DeKalb) for the continued provision of services such as trash collection, fire, police, etc.
    2. A new city would take over current city revenue streams being collected by the county ("special services").
    3. A new city must provide at least three services from a list of government services to be considered a city (such as police, zoning, etc.)
  4. Process of Incorporation
    1. By legislative rule, the process to form a city must take at least two years.
    2. A feasibility study (usually conducted by the Carl Vinson Institute) must be conducted.  The cost of the study would range from approximately $20,000-$30,000, which funds must be raised by the community seeking incorporation (as opposed to being funded by the Legislature).
    3. If legislation were passed by the General Assembly, it would likely be in the form of "general" (full General Assembly) as opposed to "local" (county delegation only) legislation.
    4. If city-charter legislation is passed and signed into law, then a date would be set for a referendum within the boundaries of the new city to decide whether to create the new city.
    5. If the referendum passes, then municipal a date for elections would be set.
    6. The Governor may appoint a commission to help guide the transition to becoming a city.
    7. For two years after passage of the referendum, the new city can continue to use county services.
  5. City of DeKalb
    1. There is a legislative study committee considering the incorporation of all unincorporated areas of DeKalb County.
      1. According to at least one speaker, no legislative proposal for the City of DeKalb will pass either chamber at this time.
      2. The effect of the creation of the City of DeKalb would be to foreclose the possibility of forming any additional cities within DeKalb.
      3. The City of DeKalb could begin to collect new city streams of revenue, such utility franchise (right-of-way) fees.
      4. It is estimated that the creation of the City of DeKalb would generate approximately $30 million in new revenue.
  6. The Dunwoody Experience
    1. Dunwoody has about 39% commercial and industrial property, which provided a vital revenue stream.
    2. When the city was formed, it broke up service contracts to fund interim services that it could not afford initially.
    3. The revenue generated from residential property taxes is approximately $350/person.
    4. Dunwoody is now running a fund surplus of approximately $2-3 million and has the lowest tax burden in DeKalb
  7. Other Considerations
    1. A new city usually requires a substantial amount of commercial and industrial property; residential property taxes alone are usually insufficient to operate a city.
    2. A city could incorporate as a "city light," providing on a few services, such as zoning, to keep operating costs low while retaining local control over certain services.
    3. Former DeKalb Commissioner Yates offered police services should be budgeted at the rate of approximately four officers per thousand residents.
    4. A member of the audience offered that northern DeKalb needs to find an identity ("defining who we are") prior to considering incorporation.
I recognize that I may have missed some comments or inartfully worded portions of this summary, so please feel free to chime in.  That is why we have this blog!


Welcome to the North DeKalb Cityhood Blog!

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