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!


  1. Thanks for the synopsis. I didn't know this meeting was happening. I was stunned to read that there is already a study for the "City of Dekalb". What a nightmare thought.

  2. I am sorry that notice of the meeting didn't reach you. I did my best to circulate the information among various civic and neighborhood groups as the media. Stay tuned for information about the next meeting.

  3. Mr. Levitas

    I've started my own blog in support of the City of Tucker. I would like your permission to repost this article 'Cityhood Meeting Summary' as it has some very valuable and useful information that would apply to Tucker, as it would any other startup city.