Senate Committee Hearing on Brookhaven Cityhood

March 11, 2012

House Bill 636, the Brookhaven city charter, will be heard in the Senate State and Local Government Operations (SLOGO) Committee tomorrow, Monday, March 12, at 2:00 p.m. in Room 307 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building, directly across Mitchell Street from the State Capitol.

This likely will be the last opportunity for public comment before the bill completes its journey through the General Assembly.

BrookhavenYES, the citizens’ advocacy group for cityhood, has organized a bus to take cityhood supporters to the Capitol for this meeting. Click here for further details and to RSVP.

I recommend e-mailing the senators on SLOGO with your thoughts. Here is a list of committee members that you can cut and paste into the “to” field of your e-mail message, including me and Senator Fran Millar, the sponsors of the bill:

[email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]


Brookhaven Cityhood Update

March 5, 2012

House Bill 636 (click for information), the proposed city charter for the City of Brookhaven, passed the House Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday, February 7, by a vote of 9-5. It passed the full House of Representatives on Friday, February 17, by a vote of 101-57.

The bill is awaiting a hearing in the Senate State and Local Government Operations (SLOGO) Committee, which I anticipate will occur within the next week and a half.

Click here to view my presentation of HB 636 to the full House.

The House Governmental Affairs Committee passed an amendment to rename our community “Ashford.” This amendment was proposed at the behest of residents of one particular neighborhood. Needless to say, I do not support the amendment and will present a substitute version of HB 636 to the Senate SLOGO Committee that will restore the appropriate name of our community, Brookhaven.

In doing so, I will present historical evidence that the name Brookhaven has applied to a broad community – with its center of gravity in DeKalb County – for many decades. For example, here is a helpful article (click for link) noting that Murphey Candler Little League was first known as Brookhaven Little League when it started at Murphey Candler Park in 1958, complete with an opening day parade that began at Cherokee Plaza on Peachtree Road and ended at the park.

On a separate note, I recently met with a group of constituents from the Brookhaven Fields neighborhood who suggested that we change the structure of the Brookhaven city council to four single-district city council members, which yields a five-member city council when you count the at-large elected mayor.

They were concerned about the three at-large city council members that are provided in the version of HB 636 which passed the House of Representatives. As it stands now, there would be a seven-member city council comprised of three at-large council members who would be elected by the city as a whole but each reside in one of three districts, three district council members who would reside in each of the three districts and be elected only by the citizens who live in their particular district, and an at-large elected mayor.

I appreciated the meeting. The result of the meeting is that the substitute version of HB 636 that will be presented to the Senate will provide for a five-member city council comprised of four members elected from single-member districts and a mayor elected at large.

Click here to view the proposed four-district map. This map is intended to keep individual neighborhoods whole and avoid dividing them into more than one district. District 1 includes the Murphey Candler and Silver Lake neighborhoods. District 2 includes Ashford Park and Drew Valley. District 3 includes Historic Brookhaven, Brookhaven Heights, Brookhaven Fields, and Lenox Park. District 4 includes HillsDale, Pine Hills, and a portion of Buford Highway.

This new city council structure amplifies our individual voices and gives our neighborhoods real power over the future of our community. Each Brookhaven city council member would represent about 12,297 residents compared to the five DeKalb County commissioners who represent about 138,379 residents each, and the two super district commissioners who represent about 345,947 residents each. That’s 11 times and 28 times, respectively, as many residents as a Brookhaven city council member would represent.

On a final note, the proposed city limits had included Plaza Fiesta, the 57th Fighter Group Restaurant, and other commercial properties on the east side of Clairmont Road, across from Ashford Park and Drew Valley.

Representative Elena Parent, who represents that area, has proposed House Bill 1006 (click for information) to annex this and other territory down to I-85 into the City of Chamblee. Assuming that HB 1006 passes the General Assembly, the Brookhaven city limits will end at Clairmont Road. The city council map discussed above reflects this change.


Cityhood Public Hearing This Tuesday

January 29, 2012

The House Governmental Affairs Committee will hear public comment on House Bill 636, the proposed Brookhaven city charter, this Tuesday, January 31, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. in Room 341 of the State Capitol.

BrookhavenYES, the citizens’ advocacy group supporting the proposal, is organizing a bus and carpools for supporters to attend the meeting. Click here for more information and to RSVP. The bus and carpools will leave Brookhaven at 1:15 p.m.

Also, click here to review the PowerPoint presentation that I made the House Governmental Affairs Committee this past week. Please contact me if you have any questions about it.


Just the Facts on Cityhood, Part 1

January 29, 2012

The owner of the Old Five Points shopping center (a.k.a. “Gary Mesh Corners”) at the intersection of Ashford Dunwoody and Johnson Ferry Roads is posting flyers on front doors across our community containing some personal attacks and a great deal of misinformation about the Brookhaven cityhood issue.

I will not respond to the attacks, but feel it’s important to correct the misinformation. This is part of a series of responses to do just that.

For example, one flyer makes this statement:

“Why did the [Carl Vinson Institute] study ignore the impact on DeKalb County, and thus our taxes, of the ‘new city’ taking PDK airport? DeKalb County Police must pay a $2 million fine to the FAA. We, the taxpayers, would lose $2 Million right off the bat! Plus the fuel tax would be taken from DeKalb County!”

This statement is false. PDK airport is no longer within the boundaries of the proposed city (click here to see the map). However, even when PDK was within the boundaries, there was no $2 million fine that DeKalb County would have owed to the FAA. The fact that this fine does not exist was confirmed with the airport director, Mike Van Wie. In addition, no fuel taxes would have been diverted to the proposed city.


Brookhaven Cut to DeKalb’s Higher Property Taxes

January 29, 2012

On the heels of DeKalb County’s 2011 property tax hike, the millage cap for the proposed City of Brookhaven will be set at 3.35 mills in the Brookhaven city charter as it moves forward in the 2012 session of the General Assembly. In addition, the homestead exemption for city property taxes will be increased from $10,000 to $20,000.

Remember that cityhood does not add property taxes to your tax bill. Instead, it shifts two of the existing county line items to the city, enabling us to keep those resources here at home. If you vote in favor of cityhood at the ballot box this July, it also will slash the rate at which these taxes are charged, cap that rate, and double the applicable homestead exemption.

The millage cap is a mechanism that prevents city property taxes from going higher than a certain rate without approval by the citizens in a public referendum. It is a benefit that does not exist in unincorporated DeKalb County.

What does this mean for you?

It guarantees virtually all homeowners a property tax cut, even if the city council sets the millage rate at the full 3.35 mills.

However, the need for the Brookhaven city council to use the full 3.35 mills is doubtful. Property taxes are likely to be lower than 3.35 mills. In its feasibility study for the proposed city, the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia (CVI) estimated that expenditures would be $25.1 million. The City of Dunwoody, a similarly situated city in terms of population and geography, anticipates 2012 expenditures of $20.9 million. The new millage cap will reduce the CVI estimated surplus for Brookhaven from $3.4 million to approximately $261,348. Based upon Dunwoody’s actual expenditures, this estimated surplus is in excess of an already generous expenditure estimate.

The $261,348 surplus is on par with the CVI estimated surplus for Dunwoody when it became a city. In the Dunwoody feasibility study published in 2006, CVI projected a surplus of $278,789. In 2009, Dunwoody’s first year of operations, its actual expenditures were roughly $1.75 million less than that. This shows that CVI’s estimates are indeed conservative.

With a $20,000 homestead exemption, the City of Brookhaven would need to charge 3.22 mills to generate revenues equal to its estimated expenditures of $25.1 million. If expenditures are like those of Dunwoody, $20.9 million, then the necessary millage rate drops to 1.16 mills.

Here is a quantification of the real tax dollars associated with the property tax cut that the City of Brookhaven could provide:

A homeowner with a $100,000 assessed property value currently pays DeKalb County $273 for municipal services. That homeowner would pay $93 if Brookhaven’s expenditures equal Dunwoody’s $20.9 million, $258 if Brookhaven’s expenditures equal the CVI estimate of $25.1 million, and $268 if Brookhaven must use the full 3.35 millage cap.

A homeowner with a $200,000 assessed value currently pays DeKalb $610. That homeowner would pay $209 if Brookhaven’s expenditures equal Dunwoody, $580 if Brookhaven’s expenditures equal the CVI estimate, and $603 if Brookhaven must use the full millage cap.

A homeowner with a $300,000 assessed value currently pays DeKalb $946. That homeowner would pay $325 if Brookhaven’s expenditures equal Dunwoody, $902 if Brookhaven’s expenditures equal the CVI estimate, and $938 if Brookhaven must use the full millage cap.

A homeowner with a $400,000 assessed value currently pays DeKalb $1,283. That homeowner would pay $441 if Brookhaven’s expenditures equal Dunwoody, $1,224 if Brookhaven’s expenditures equal the CVI estimate, and $1,273 if Brookhaven must use the full millage cap.

The 3.35 mill cap would lower Brookhaven’s property taxes to a rate less than the 3.5 mills that existed before DeKalb County increased this rate in 2011 to 6.39 mills.

I look forward to working with citizens to bring Brookhaven a more responsive local government that guarantees lower property taxes and lives within its means.


Brookhaven Hearings Begin Today

January 24, 2012

The House Governmental Affairs Committee will be holding the first of two or three hearings on House Bill 636, the Brookhaven city charter, today at 2:00 p.m. You can watch it online by clicking this link.

Click here to read the bill that will be considered in the Governmental Affairs Committee. This is a substitute bill that has a few differences from the bill that is currently posted on the House website.

I have asked the Carl Vinson Institute of Government (CVI) at the University of Georgia to double check, triple check, and quadruple check the millage cap that is contained in HB 636 to ensure that it provides all homeowners a property tax cut, even if the city needs to use the full millage cap, which is highly unlikely.

The millage cap that CVI recommended is 3.35 mills, which is contained in the bill.

The millage cap is a mechanism that prevents city property taxes from going higher than a certain rate without approval by the citizens in a public referendum. It is a benefit that does not exist in unincorporated DeKalb County.

Remember that cityhood does not add property taxes to your tax bill. Instead, it shifts two of the existing county line items to the city, enabling us to keep those resources here at home.

Click here to review a supplemental report prepared by CVI that reconciles the new millage cap with the Brookhaven feasibility study (click for link) that was released in November 2011.

The supplemental report projects a surplus of $261,348 in excess of the proposed city’s estimated expenditures. This is very similar to the CVI projected surplus for the City of Dunwoody, which was $278,789. Dunwoody was able to reduce its actual expenditures by an additional $1.75 million in its first year of operations, bringing its surplus to more than $2 million.

Finally, click here to view the final map that will be presented to the House Governmental Affairs Committee. Compared to the previous version, this map includes four additional parcels east of Clairmont Road and north of West Hardee Avenue, across the street from Ashford Park and including the 57th Fighter Group Restaurant.


Property Tax Cut for Brookhaven Homeowners

January 16, 2012

On the heels of DeKalb County’s 2011 property tax hike, the millage cap for the proposed City of Brookhaven will be set at 3.4 mills in the Brookhaven city charter as it moves forward in the 2012 session of the General Assembly. In addition, the homestead exemption for city property taxes will be increased from $10,000 to $20,000.

Remember that cityhood does not add property taxes to your tax bill. Instead, it shifts two of the existing county line items to the city, enabling us to keep those resources here at home. If you vote in favor of cityhood at the ballot box this July, it also will slash the rate at which these taxes are charged, cap that rate, and double the applicable homestead exemption.

The millage cap is a mechanism that prevents city property taxes from going higher than a certain rate without approval by the citizens in a public referendum. It is a benefit that does not exist in unincorporated DeKalb County.

What does this mean for you?

It guarantees virtually all homeowners a property tax cut, even if the city council sets the millage rate at the full 3.4 mills.

However, the need for the Brookhaven city council to use the full 3.4 mills is doubtful. Property taxes are likely to be lower than 3.4 mills. The Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia estimated that city expenditures would be $25.1 million. The City of Dunwoody, a similarly situated city in terms of population and geography, anticipates 2012 expenditures of $20.9 million. The new millage cap will reduce the Carl Vinson Institute’s estimated surplus for Brookhaven from $3.4 million to approximately $362,878. Based upon Dunwoody’s actual expenditures, this estimated surplus is in excess of an already generous expenditure estimate.

With a $20,000 homestead exemption, the City of Brookhaven would need to charge 3.22 mills to generate revenues equal to its estimated expenditures of $25.1 million.

The 3.4 mill cap would lower Brookhaven’s property taxes to a rate less than the 3.5 mills that existed before DeKalb County increased this rate in 2011 to 6.39 mills.

I look forward to working with citizens to bring Brookhaven a more responsive local government that guarantees lower property taxes and lives within its means.


City Limits for Brookhaven Proposal

January 16, 2012

There have been concerns about the proposed boundaries of the City of Brookhaven almost completely surrounding the existing City of Chamblee.  To alleviate these concerns, the final city boundaries that will be proposed in the city charter will exclude the southern half of PDK Airport.  The northern half of PDK Airport is already in the City of Chamblee.

Click here to view the final city limits in a PDF document.  After clicking the link, you may need to click “refresh” in your web browser for the map to appear on your screen.

DeKalb County officials have convinced me that there is no real benefit to having PDK in the city limits.  The county and the FAA control the airport.  The City of Brookhaven would exercise no control over it.

Commercial properties located directly across Clairmont Road from the Ashford Park and Drew Valley neighborhoods are proposed to remain within the city limits.

The exclusion of the airport has a negligible impact on the viability of the proposed city.


BrookhavenYES Meeting on Tuesday

January 16, 2012

BrookhavenYES, the citizens’ advocacy group for the proposed City of Brookhaven, is holding an organizational meeting this Tuesday, January 17, at 7:00 p.m. in Lupton Auditorium in the main building of Oglethorpe University. If you support cityhood for Brookhaven, please consider attending this meeting to find out how you can help your fellow citizens advocate for it.

Previous messages about this meeting have stated that it would be held in Oglethorpe’s student center. Please note that the location has been changed to Lupton Auditorium.


Brookhaven’s Millage Cap and Homestead Exemption

January 6, 2012

The millage cap for the proposed City of Brookhaven will be set at 3.4 mills in HB 636, the Brookhaven city charter, as it moves forward in the 2012 session of the General Assembly.  In addition, the homestead exemption for city property taxes will be increased from $10,000 to $20,000. The legislative session begins this Monday, January 9.

The millage cap is a mechanism that prevents city property taxes from going higher than a certain rate without approval by the citizens in a public referendum.  It is a benefit that does not exist in unincorporated DeKalb County.

This guarantees virtually all homeowners a property tax cut, even if the city council sets the millage rate at the full 3.4 mills.

However, the need for the Brookhaven city council to use the full 3.4 mills is doubtful.  Property taxes are likely to be lower than 3.4 mills.  The Carl Vinson Institute of Government estimated that city expenditures would be $25.1 million.  The City of Dunwoody, a similarly situated city in terms of population and geography, anticipates 2012 expenditures of $20.9 million.  The new millage cap will reduce the Carl Vinson Institute’s estimated surplus for Brookhaven from $3.4 million to approximately $362,878.  Based upon Dunwoody’s actual expenditures, this estimated surplus is in excess of an already generous expenditure estimate.

With a $20,000 homestead exemption, the City of Brookhaven would need to charge 3.22 mills to generate revenues equal to its estimated expenditures of $25.1 million.

The 3.4 mill cap would lower Brookhaven’s property taxes to a rate less than the 3.5 mills that existed before DeKalb County increased this rate in 2011 to 6.39 mills.

I look forward to working with citizens to bring Brookhaven a more responsive local government that guarantees lower property taxes and lives within its means.


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