Cityhood & Annexation Options and Their Effects on Taxes and Schools
Dear Druid Hills Resident,
The Druid Hills Civic Association Bylaws state among their objectives:
- To maintain liaison with governing bodies so as to influence decision making and remain alert to actions that are of concern to the community,
- To inform and educate the citizens about cogent community problems, and
- To promote the general welfare of the community, to preserve and enhance the historical heritage of Druid Hills, and to maintain its unique residential character for future generations.
Pursuant to this mandate, the 2014-2015 DHCA Board of Directors will soon undertake a CITIZENS SURVEY to help our community reach a general consensus on the position Druid Hills may adopt as DeKalb County trends toward municipalization. The creation of new DeKalb cities, proposals for additional new cities, and the prospect of annexations by existing cities all necessitate this survey.
In anticipation of the survey, please review the information below. It will provide important context for your decision about annexation and cityhood. Many residents have expressed concerns about three major factors. These are: (1) property taxes, (2) the public schools that serve geographic areas within the DHCA’s stated boundaries (specifically Fernbank Elementary, Briar Vista Elementary, and Druid Hills High School), and (3) Emory University’s position.
- It is impossible to know precisely what your tax bill will look like in the event that Druid Hills joins a new city, but leaders of the cityhood movements have stated that they will be able to provide the same level of services without a property tax increase. These services are: Planning, Parks, Police, and Public Works (including roads).
- If Druid Hills chooses to stay in unincorporated DeKalb County, your tax bill will – at least initially – resemble your 2014 tax bill. However, uncertainty about HOST property tax credits and the formation of more new cities in DeKalb County make it impossible to predict what adjustments might be forthcoming in order to continue to pay for mandatory county services.
- If Druid Hills chooses to annex to the City of Atlanta, the difference in taxes may be less than you would expect. The City of Atlanta has been rolling back millage rates. Please review the tax comparison chart and caveats in Exhibit A (at the end of this letter). Sewer / water will remain in DeKalb County no matter which option Druid Hills pursues.
Our neighborhood schools are a primary driver of property values and community life. Preserving the integrity of the public schools is essential in any choice we make.
- If our area remains part of unincorporated DeKalb County OR becomes part of a new city, the central administration, governance and management structures, and attendance zones for our public schools will not change. Becoming part of a new city such as Briarcliff/Lakeside will have no impact on the schools; they will remain part of the DeKalb County School District. You may be aware that the Druid Hills Charter Cluster refiled its petition with the DeKalb Board of Education almost five months ago. Since then, Superintendent Michael Thurmond has recommended that it be denied and the Board has not acted on it. However, the DeKalb County School District will soon apply to the state to become a charter system. The district proposes school governance and cluster advisory councils. The latter would have advisory status but not autonomy regarding budget and personnel. You may view the proposal here: http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us.
- If our area were to be annexed into an existing city, there would be significant changes surrounding our schools. Because the DHCA recognizes the critical role our public schools play in our community and wishes to protect the integrity of the schools serving any part of the DHCA’s boundaries, you will see that Exhibit B, “Proposed Atlanta Annexation Area,” is drawn to include the full attendance zones of Fernbank Elementary and Briar Vista Elementary. Please also note that contained with this proposed annexation area is Druid Hills High School.*
- Under Georgia law, if an unincorporated area is annexed into a city with an independent school system, the students and schools within the annexed area become part of the independent school system. In this case, that would be the Atlanta Public Schools (APS).
- The annexation area probably lacks a middle school. If Fernbank or Briar Vista are within an annexation area, the students may remain in those schools through the middle school years and then move to Druid Hills High School.
- Should our area opt for Atlanta annexation, it is reasonable to expect that parents and community members who were supportive of the Druid Hills Charter Cluster will seek similar autonomous governance and management structure for our public schools. You should note that APS has approved the first charter cluster in the state and the first true autonomously governed conversion charter at Centennial Place Elementary (now a K-8 school).
- Annexation could increase per pupil funding and teachers’ salaries in our schools. Per pupil expenditures by APS in previous years have been approximately $15,000 per student. DeKalb spends approximately $10,000 per student. (See National Center for Education Statistics, “Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary School Districts, Fiscal Year 2011.”)
Most of you realize that Emory University occupies a large portion of the northern part of Druid Hills. Emory officials have stated: “Currently the University is monitoring various jurisdictional proposals. We are hopeful that the evaluation process will be transparent and fair, so that we and our neighbor can weigh the best alternatives.” The map of DHCA boundaries (Exhibit C) at the end of this letter delineates Emory’s campus within our neighborhood.
Please understand that what has been conveyed here in no way precludes the pursuit of annexation or cityhood by communities not technically within the DHCA boundaries. Proposals such as the potential annexation map simply reflect possible solutions for our neighborhoods and schools in light of intensifying initiatives toward municipalization in DeKalb County.
You will receive the survey during the next few weeks. In the meantime, please watch for announcements about information sessions to be held at our area schools. Visit our website at http://www.druidhills.org and review documents in the “Cityhood & Annexation” section. New information on such topics as senior exemptions and historic preservation will be posted soon. Talk to your neighbors and organize gatherings to clarify issues that are important to them. Contact us with your questions. The results of the survey will help us determine the future of Druid Hills – not just for your lifetime, but for generations to come.
Druid Hills Civic Association
2014 Survey Committee
Exhibit A: City of Atlanta / DeKalb County 2014 Tax Comparison
The DeKalb County Tax Commissioner has reviewed this spreadsheet for accuracy.
|Fair Market Appraised Value||Uninc DeK||DeK Schools||Total Uninc DeKalb||Atl City||Atl Schools||DeK Base||Total Atl in DeK||Property Tax Differences|
Assumptions and caveats:
2014 millage rates apply.
Includes HOST Tax Credits. Basic Homestead Exemption only; not valid for other exemptions or freezes.
Assumes Atlanta Public Schools taxes will apply for annexed areas.
Local government property tax comparison only.
Water and Sewer fees are billed separately. City of Atlanta states that DeKalb rates will remain in effect for any annexed area.
Sanitation Fees: $265, DeKalb; $586, Atlanta.
Atlanta does not have DeKalb’s fees for street lights ($25), speed humps ($25), and storm water ($48).
Exhibit B: Proposed Atlanta Annexation Area*
Exhibit C: Druid Hills Civic Association Boundaries
*Revised on 10/16/2014.