Governor’s Leadership Spurred DeKalb Surplus

October 9, 2014

The DeKalb County School District recently announced that it is running a $30.9 million surplus. This represents an impressive improvement of $52.3 million over the $21.4 million deficit that faced the school district in February 2013.

February 2013 was the same month that Governor Nathan Deal removed six members of the DeKalb County Board of Education after the board had brought our school system to the brink of accreditation loss. In replacing these six members, Governor Deal appointed six highly qualified and professional citizens who promptly rolled up their sleeves and righted the ship.

Governor Deal led when DeKalb needed him. He took necessary steps in a moment of real crisis. His swift action vastly improved the trajectory of our school system. Now our schools’ accreditation is heading in the right direction. Accreditation loss no longer is a threat.

The district’s red ink has been reversed and has become a substantial surplus. The school system has eliminated furlough days and implemented teacher and staff pay raises. This is a direct result of the improved governance Governor Deal installed on our school board. It also is a result of the $930 million increase in education funding delivered in Governor Deal’s four state budgets.

The press conference in which Governor Deal announced the removal of the school board is the most vivid memory of my ten years in the State House. I was among a bipartisan group of seven DeKalb legislators who stood with Governor Deal that day as he announced his decision.

This bipartisan group did not include Senator Jason Carter, who attended the press conference, stood far behind the cameras, and did not support the decision that was being announced.

On a related note, Senator Carter voted in favor of three of Governor Deal’s four budgets. The budget he voted against – this year’s budget – contained the largest increase in education funding in seven years: $547 million. DeKalb is benefiting from that funding as part of its surplus.

As the father of two children in DeKalb public schools, I appreciate everything Governor Deal has done to improve the governance and financial condition of our school system. We can trust him to put aside partisan politics and make decisions with the best interests of our kids at heart.


DeKalb Delegation Public Hearings

October 2, 2014

The members of the State House who represent portions of the DeKalb County will hold three public hearings across the county to hear from you on state and local issues. There is one meeting at Brookhaven City Hall. Please join us and make your voice heard. The schedule is as follows:

Monday, October 13, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m., Brookhaven City Hall, 4362 Peachtree Road, Brookhaven 30319

Tuesday, October 21, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m., Maloof Auditorium, 1300 Commerce Drive, Decatur 30030

Tuesday, October 28, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m., Porter Sanford Center, 3181 Rainbow Drive, Decatur 30034


July 22 Primary Runoff Election

July 21, 2014

Georgia’s primary runoff election is Tuesday, July 22. Your regular polling location will be open 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

If you have voted at Montgomery Elementary in the past, please remember that the Montgomery polling place has moved and is now split between Kittredge Magnet School and the Cross & Crown Lutheran Church. Please visit the Georgia Secretary of State’s “My Voter Page” website to find your correct polling place:

Georgia Secretary of State “My Voter Page”

If you voted a Republican ballot in the May 20 primary, you must vote a Republican ballot in the runoff. The same rule applies if you voted a Democratic ballot on May 20. If you did not vote on May 20, you may choose either party’s runoff ballot.

DeKalb County voters are reminded that this runoff features a special election for DeKalb County Sheriff. This special election appears on everyone’s runoff ballot, regardless of party.

The incumbent, Sheriff Jeff Mann, has years of experience working in the sheriff’s office, is doing a good job and deserves to remain in office. His opponent is partly responsible for the mess in which DeKalb County now finds itself. The sheriff controls a large budget and contracting power independent from the county government. A careful choice for this office is critical.

Here are links to sample ballots and a voter’s guide:

DeKalb County Republican Sample Ballot
DeKalb County Democratic Sample Ballot
DeKalb County Nonpartisan Sample Ballot
Fulton County Republican Sample Ballot
Fulton County Democratic Sample Ballot
Fulton County Nonpartisan Sample Ballot
League of Women Voters/AJC Voter’s Guide


Early Voting & Sample Ballots for Primary Runoff

July 14, 2014

Early voting for the July 22 primary runoff election is available now through Friday, July 18, at the following times and locations:

DeKalb County Early Voting
Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
DeKalb Voter Registration & Elections Office
Memorial at I-285 across from DeKalb County Jail
4380 Memorial Drive, Suite 300
Decatur, GA 30032

Fulton County Early Voting
Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
North Fulton Service Center
7741 Roswell Road, Suite 232
Sandy Springs, GA 30350

In addition, your regular polling location will be open Tuesday, July 22, from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

DeKalb County voters are reminded that this runoff features a special election for DeKalb County Sheriff. The incumbent, Sheriff Jeff Mann, has years of experience working in the sheriff’s office, is doing a good job and deserves to remain in office. His opponent is partly responsible for the mess in which DeKalb County now finds itself. The sheriff controls a large budget and contracting power independent from the county government. A careful choice for this office is critical. All voters are eligible to vote in this special election regardless of whether they choose a Republican, Democratic or nonpartisan ballot.

In Fulton County, Jane Barwick has the right experience and is the best choice for Superior Court Judge.

Here are sample ballots and other resources for your review:

DeKalb County Republican Sample Ballot
DeKalb County Democratic Sample Ballot
DeKalb County Nonpartisan Sample Ballot
Fulton County Republican Sample Ballot
Fulton County Democratic Sample Ballot
Fulton County Nonpartisan Sample Ballot
Georgia Secretary of State “My Voter Page”
League of Women Voters/AJC Voter’s Guide


Tips for Property Assessment Appeals

July 9, 2014

A week ago, I held a town hall meeting at Chamblee First United Methodist Church. The subject matter was how to appeal your property assessment. You can read about the meeting in the Dunwoody Crier and Brookhaven Reporter. We had about 150 chairs. Every chair was filled, and the meeting was standing room only.

The high attendance was a symptom that our community has been hit especially hard this year with property assessment hikes. It’s summertime, and I recognize that some residents who would like to appeal their assessments were not able to attend the meeting. I have compiled this summary of some of the information shared in the meeting. I hope you will forward it to your neighbors, some of whom may not have been able to attend. The advice given in this e-mail is more detailed and less generic than you will find elsewhere.

There are two main grounds for appealing your property assessment: fair market value and uniformity. Fair market value is what it sounds like. You should review comparable properties that sold in and around your neighborhood to determine the price at which a willing buyer would purchase your property. You have a legal right for the 100% assessed value of your property — the relevant value for purposes of your appeal — to equal its fair market value.

Please note that the tax assessor only considers sales that occurred during the 2013 calendar year (January 1, 2013 through December 31, 2013) to determine the fair market value of your property for 2014 tax purposes. Sales before January 1, 2013 and after December 31, 2013 will not be considered. The best place to find 2013 sales is Zillow.com. Search the yellow “recently sold” properties from 1/1/13 to 12/31/13.

The other basis for an appeal is uniformity. The calculation used by the tax assessor is a bit more complicated than this, but as a shorthand, if the properties in your neighborhood are of a similar type and are on similar tracts of land (1/4 acre, 1/3 acre, 1/2 acre, etc.), then the assessed value per square foot for your home should be the same as the others in your neighborhood.

To determine if you have a uniformity appeal, use the tax assessor’s website in your county (DeKalb or Fulton) to search the other houses on your street or in your neighborhood:

DeKalb County Property Appraisal Search

Fulton County Property Appraisal Search

The tax assessor’s record for each house will show a 100% assessed value and total square footage. For each house, divide the 100% assessed value by the total square footage. Then, average the “assessed value per square foot” results for your entire street or neighborhood. If your house is above the average, multiply the average by your house’s square footage and request that amount as your 100% assessed value.

The Georgia Department of Revenue provides a useful form for your appeal, which you can use with any county tax assessor. To create your appeal package, it’s best to use this form and attach a narrative explanation and supporting documents to the completed form:

Georgia Department of Revenue Property Appeal Form

Even if you are only appealing fair market value or uniformity, be sure to check both “value” and “uniformity” in case you ultimately would like to argue both of these grounds before the Board of Equalization. The type of appeal you are filing is a “real” property appeal. Although there is an arbitration process you can use, there are potential costs to it, so I highly recommend that you check the box for a “BOE” appeal which will send your appeal to the Board of Equalization.

DeKalb County property appeals must be postmarked no later than Monday, July 14. Fulton County appeals must be postmarked no later than Monday, July 21. Below are the mailing addresses for the DeKalb or Fulton office to which you should send your appeal. I also have included their telephone numbers in case you have any questions:

DeKalb County Property Appraisal Department
120 West Trinity Place, Room 208
Decatur, GA, 30030
(404) 371-0841

Fulton County Board of Tax Assessors
141 Pryor Street, Suite 2052
Atlanta, GA 30303
(404) 612-6440

The tax assessor will review your appeal and send you a response letter letting you know if they have decided to grant a reduction in value. If they don’t grant a reduction, you have the right to go before the Board of Equalization. If they grant a reduction, you nevertheless can choose to go before the Board of Equalization.

You may want to continue to the Board of Equalization even if you are satisfied with the reduced value from the tax assessor. A reduction given by the tax assessor lasts for the current tax year only. A reduction awarded by the Board of Equalization last for three years, the current tax year plus two more. You can start your Board of Equalization hearing by noting the lower value that the tax assessor gave you. Sometimes the tax assessor will agree to that value right there on the spot and it will be formalized in the decision of the Board of Equalization.

Here are four additional tips for your Board of Equalization hearing:

1. You have the right to review the tax assessor’s comparable properties and other documents before entering the hearing room. You also can request the documents in writing prior to your hearing. Avail yourself of this opportunity.

2. Each side will present their case to the Board of Equalization. Often, the tax assessor’s representative will sit silently and let you go first. Request that the tax assessor present their case first, so you can respond to it.

3. The Board of Equalization should be comprised of three citizen members. Sometimes they are short-handed and might request to proceed with two members. Insist on three.

4. Bring five copies of your appeal documents with you to the hearing, one copy for each member of the Board of Equalization, one for you and one for the tax assessor’s representative.


Town Hall Meeting on Property Assessment Appeals

June 24, 2014

Please join me and Senator Fran Millar for a town hall meeting on Tuesday, July 1, at 7:00 p.m. at Chamblee First United Methodist Church, 4147 Chamblee Dunwoody Road, which is located south of I-285 and north of Harts Mill Road.

Our community has been hit especially hard with property assessment increases for the 2014 tax year. At this meeting, we will explain in detail how to properly file an appeal. There is more to the appeal process than simply sending a letter that you disagree with your assessment on the basis of fair market value. However, if armed with the right information, it is a process that homeowners can handle on their own.

The deadline for DeKalb County property assessment appeals is July 14. Fulton County appeals are due July 21.

We also will discuss state and local issues.


Thank You!

May 21, 2014

Thank you for your support in yesterday’s Republican primary for State House District 80, covering Brookhaven, Chamblee and Sandy Springs. The final tally was 75% to 25%.

As I look back on 10 years of public service, I am grateful for the friendships and trust we’ve built. Our community is an outstanding place to live and work. Evan and I are proud to raise our family in Brookhaven. I am proud to practice law from a modest office in Sandy Springs.

Looking ahead, I am optimistic that the financial turnaround at MARTA slowly but surely will enable us to transform the agency into something that reaches beyond the confines of Fulton and DeKalb counties. It is also time to clean up DeKalb County’s tarnished reputation and diminish the size and scope of the Fulton County government.

Not every race on the primary election ballot ended yesterday. The Republican primary for U.S. Senate features a runoff between Jack Kingston and David Perdue. The DeKalb sheriff’s race pits Vernon Jones against the incumbent, Jeff Mann. The sheriff controls a large budget and has the ability to award contracts. A wise choice is essential. The runoff will be Tuesday, July 22.

I congratulate Catherine Bernard on a hard-fought campaign. She hails from the Liberty Caucus, a newer group within the Republican Party. I am hopeful we can find a way to work together. Although engaged citizens may disagree from time to time, what is great about our community is that we listen to each other and find common ground where possible.

Thanks again for your vote of confidence. Please contact me at (404) 590-7377 or [email protected] if I can assist with anything.

Onward and upward.


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