My name is Alian Teach, I live in unincorporated DeKalb County in Forrest Hills Decatur. Currently there has been a lot of conversation about Forrest Hills being annexed into Avondale Estates. Some people are telling residents in my neighborhood that if we do not annex into Avondale – we will become part of the city and we will not be able to remain unincorporated. I have attached the document that has been distributed to my neighbors and I’m writing all of you to hopefully find out the facts.
There is currently fear around this issue and the attached document feeds that fear. We created a survey (attached)to find out if our neighborhood wants annexation and we are currently collecting responses. Many residents are leaning towards annexation into Avondale so we will not become part of the City of Dekalb.
Will my neighborhood of unincorporated Dekalb have to become part of a city? Is there the option for us to remain as we are? If we can remaining unincorporated, would the neighborhood lose services?
Is Dekalb County planning on becoming a city now or in the future? If so, and Forrest Hills is not annexed into Avondale, will we have to become part of the city?
If Dekalb becomes a city and our neighborhood becomes a part of it. Will our taxes increase? If so, how much?
Our neighborhood is having a meeting Oct. 13th to discuss annexation and I would like to present facts to the neighborhood so we can made the decision that we feel is best. In this climate it is hard to know what is fact and what is fiction so I would appreciate if I could have something in writing so my neighbors know I’m not presenting biased information.
Thank you, Alian
Thank you for writing Commissioner Gannon regarding the annexation issue as it regards to Forrest
Hills. I’ll do my best to answer your questions. They do not lend themselves to yes or no answers.
Will my neighborhood of unincorporated DeKalb have to become part of a city? Is there the option for us to remain as we are? If we can remaining unincorporated, would the neighborhood lose services?
• New cities are generally formed by the General Assembly, which reviews a study of their financial feasibility as determined by the Carl Vinson Institute. The General Assembly determines the map/boundaries and Charter. The specific municipal services to be provided are also approved. Usually there is some group working with the affected communities to determine what services they want, the level of service and the method to pay for these services. To my knowledge there is no such group that is organized to form such a city for Forrest Hills. After the General Assembly passes and the governor signs a cityhood bill. A referendum is held to allow the people residing in the proposed city the opportunity to vote. This has been the process for Dunwoody and Brookhaven.
• There has been a bill introduced (that did not advance) to form a City of South DeKalb. Until recently there is no planning or organizing taking place regarding this concept. A new group has formed, but is struggling to raise the money to fund the Carl Vinson a study ($35,000). Moreover, a group formed last year around a City of Stonecrest, but it was not financially feasible. A City of DeKalb is unlikely to be financially feasible either. I’m not aware of any political leadership that has taken a position to support this city.
• The County does not know where it is going on cityhood. The state has a short-sighted, insufficient process to form cities. There is no consideration for the unincorporated areas.
• The answer to your first two questions is: it is up to the general Assembly and more specifically the DeKalb Delegation. For the 3rd question, I can’t imagine the General Assembly eliminating services, but costs could rise.
Is DeKalb County planning on becoming a city now or in the future? If so, and Forrest Hills is not
annexed into Avondale, will we have to become part of the city?
• DeKalb County is not making any plans to become a city. However, on a service level we already provide municipal services: police, water and sewer, sanitation, parks, etc.
• Forrest Hills will have a say (a referendum, or a petition of 60% of the registered voters) in whether it becomes annexed into Avondale.
• The city of DeKalb concept has not advanced to the point that I can answer your last question.
If DeKalb becomes a city and our neighborhood becomes a part of it. Will our taxes increase? If so, how much?
• No financial analysis is currently available to answer this question. The Operations Task Force
may conduct some analysis on the impact of forming new cities on unincorporated areas.
Regarding the materials you sent, I would have to say the following passage is an overstatement, speculative and perhaps inflammatory:
“As a result, the County is examining the anticipated loss of revenue due to
annexation/incorporation and evaluating forming a “City of DeKalb” with the remaining unincorporated portions of the County, including FH. This city could ultimately lead to higher taxes and lesser services, prevent future options of annexation into nearby cities, and be run by the same officials currently running the County.
• I don’t know of any “evaluating”. Frankly it would be good to know, but there is no County staff working on this. We do not know the impact of incorporation or cityhood or annexation. As mentioned previously, the Operations Task Force may examine this issue, but no results or conclusions have been drawn. It is easy to predict taxes will rise. It is valuable for citizens to become aware and involved in the annexation and cityhood discussions and to the extent that the above statement motivates people to become involved, it may serve a purpose.
• Most of the other documents are informative. I would have to closely evaluate the tax comparison to see if it is an “apples to apples” comparison. In general existing cities like Decatur and Avondale have much higher property taxes than unincorporated areas. This is largely related to the impacts of HOST which has different impacts on city and unincorporated areas. Avondale and Decatur have higher millage rates, different homestead exemptions, different fee structures for street lighting, sanitation, speed humps and
drainage – all of which need to be considered in a cost comparison. The future of HOST is
in play and will change over the next few years, but discussions are just beginning. Besides property taxes, cities have access to a wider variety of franchise fees (they appear on your utility bills) The future value of homes in a city versus outside is very speculative. Decatur is a little different because they have a highly valued school system. Annexation into Decatur would probably increase values. Avondale Estates is less certain.
• Keep in mind that nobody ever leaves DeKalb County. The state requires that counties provide: courts (state, superior, juvenile, probate); the clerk to maintain deeds, wills and court records; the tax commissioner to collect taxes; the tax assessor to value properties; the district attorney, solicitor general and public defender; and the board of voter registration. The County will probably continue to provide and charge for libraries, water and sewer, fire rescue and 911 communication. In addition a separate government the
DeKalb Board of Education which collects about 60% of your property tax bill will remain
responsible for education unless you are annexed into Decatur or Atlanta.
• Annexation is about police, planning/zoning, parks, roads and drainage, permitting, historic preservation, economic development, community development and sanitation. A city can offer you closer scrutiny of these services. County government can offer economies of
scale for many government services.
• It is certainly true that once, you are in a city, there is little opportunity for change, although some cities (East Lake) have dissolved or become part of larger cities.
I hope this is helpful to you. Davis Fox
Policy and Projects Manager for
Super District 6 Commissioner Kathie Gannon
DeKalb County Board of Commissioners