During the 2015 session of the Georgia Legislature, the organization Together In Atlanta led an annexation effort to secure a bill allowing parts of DeKalb County to hold a referendum on annexation to the City of Atlanta. The directors met on May 8, 2015 and subsequently issued the statement below.*
What have we learned? Many factors beyond our control contributed to the failure of anannexation bill to pass the House and Senate.
- How maps are drawn is key (census blocks v. metes & bounds) – Border disputes escalated because of mapping methods at the State level. Use of census blocks (as opposed to the more precise metes & bounds method) divided neighborhoods (e.g., some parts of Mason Mill neighborhood remain “unincorporated” while others are on the proposed LaVista Hills map).
- Rules at state legislature can change to meet political goals – DeKalb delegation changed its rules specifically to block annexation. Rep. Karla Drenner said the DeKalb legislative delegation changed its rules to require the signatures of all 16 delegation members instead of 9 of 16. Drenner said that was done specifically to prevent Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver from introducing the Atlanta annexation bill.** DeKalb legislators representing neighborhoods on the map filed with HB629 include Howard Mosby, Elena Parent, and Rahn Mayo.
- Schools questions have to be answered – City of Atlanta has filed a lawsuit asking the courts to decide issues of school attendance in an annexing area. The City is uncertain how to respond to inquiries about school district assignment, education-related taxation, or other related issues. Under current law, it is unclear whether Atlanta may exercise its home rule authority to expand APS’s boundaries with annexation.
- Senior exemption/tax consequences of annexation must be answered – DeKalb County seniors currently enjoy generous senior exemptions, greatly reducing the property tax burdens for many homeowners. City of Atlanta exemptions are not as generous. A proposed Atlanta Senior Exemption bill failed to clear the House. We can support efforts for thoughtful senior exemptions from school taxes in the City of Atlanta. This is one key to voter support within our area. The bill as proposed in 2015 by Rep. Beth Beskin is strongly opposed by APS.
- Other annexation efforts impact ours – TIA will work with the City of Decatur to evaluate intentions for 2016. Certain neighborhoods strongly oppose the City of Decatur’s proposed annexation of only commercial areas to support City of Decatur schools to the detriment of DeKalb County residential services and public schools.
- Non-legislative annexation options may be more realistic – Because the vast majority of our DeKalb legislative delegates oppose the legislative annexation process, the TIA Board is evaluating other non-legislative options for annexation. One of these options is the 60% petition method. This method would likely encompass smaller geographic areas rather than the entire previously proposed annexation map.
*List of attendees: Anne Wallace, Chair; Lois Berthaume, Co-Chair; Darian Bilski, Treasurer; Renee Nelson, Board Member At Large; Jennifer Tipping, Secretary; David Montgomery Moore, Advisor to Board.
**See “Some Avondale residents considering raising money for annexation study” by Dan Wisenhunt, Decaturish, April 24, 2015.
***”Old Rule” – Cityhood bills are general legislation, which requires no signatures from other delegation members. Annexation bills are local legislation, which requires nine of 16 DeKalb County representatives and four of seven DeKalb County senators to move forward.