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.


Local Issues in the Legislature

April 22, 2014

Cross Keys Pages

This Wednesday, April 23, is the first of three neighborhood “meet and greet” events I will be holding across our community. This week’s event will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at 1396 Tugaloo Drive in the Brookhaven Fields neighborhood. Click here for a full schedule of these events. Each “meet and greet” is free and open to the public.

This message is the second of a three-part series explaining legislation that was considered in the 2014 legislative session. This particular message concerns bills that pertain to our local community, except the bills I personally sponsored and passed. The first installment explained the bills I passed this year. Click here to read my first message.

Also of local interest, I had the privilege of hosting “Cross Keys Day at the Capitol” this year. A group of outstanding Cross Keys High School seniors served as my pages on one of the busiest days of the legislative session. Above is a photo of this excellent group of students. Because this year’s “Cross Keys Day at the Capitol” was a great success, I am going to repeat it every year.

Below is a summary of this year’s significant local bills. The hyperlinks will lead you to the full text and other details of each bill:

House Resolution 486 – The Georgia Constitution prohibits the creation of new city school systems. Existing city school systems such as Atlanta, Decatur and Marietta, are grandfathered to avoid this prohibition. HR 486 is constitutional amendment — requiring a two-thirds affirmative vote of the House and Senate — to enable the creation of independent municipal school systems in cities created on or after January 1, 2005. This would include Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs. It also would allow cities adjacent to cities created on or after that date, such as Chamblee and Doraville, to have their own school systems. HR 486 also would permit any combination of these cities to form a unified independent school district. Thus, a school system could be created across Brookhaven, Dunwoody, Chamblee and Doraville. This proposal will be a multi-year project because it requires a supermajority in order to pass.

House Bill 905 and House Bill 906 – These bills would settle the Century Center annexation dispute between Chamblee and Brookhaven by “reannexing” Century Center into the City of Chamblee. In early 2013, the General Assembly passed a bill that would annex Century Center and the Dresden East Civic Association (DECA) neighborhoods into the City of Chamblee if the voters approved the annexation in a November 2013 referendum. Between the passage of the original bill and the referendum, a vote of the Brookhaven City Council was taken to annex Century Center into the City of Brookhaven. In November 2013, the annexation referendum passed with 61% of the vote. I supported these bills because they are important to keeping a promise that the General Assembly made to the voters who supported the Chamblee referendum. They are on the Governor’s desk.

House Bill 1065 – DeKalb County presently has a ten-year property tax assessment freeze that will expire in 2016. I was the main sponsor of HB 1065 which will make the assessment freeze a permanent measure. This bill requires a majority vote of the representatives and senators who represent portions of DeKalb County. It passed the House but fell short in the Senate. I plan to revive it in 2015.

Senate Bill 95 – I support abolition of DeKalb’s unique-in-Georgia, highly dysfunctional CEO form of government. Until we find the votes in the DeKalb legislative delegation to accomplish that goal, however, SB 95 would have made the CEO position a non-partisan office. Presently, the DeKalb CEO is a partisan office elected in the Democratic primary. By making it a non-partisan position, Republican voters would be empowered to play a role in the selection of the county’s chief administrator. The bill failed on the House floor because there is insufficient support for adding non-partisan offices in Georgia, except for judgeships.

Senate Bill 367 – Attorney General Sam Olens issued a written opinion that Interim CEO Lee May continues to represent District 5 (Southeast DeKalb) on the DeKalb County Commission in addition to his appointed position as Interim CEO, effectively leaving District 5 without representation. SB 367 contains a provision that was added as a House floor amendment to permit the remaining six members of the DeKalb County Commission to appoint a temporary commissioner to replace Lee May until he is no longer the Interim CEO or his current term on the county commission concludes, whichever is sooner.

House Bill 390 – This bill would have allowed DeKalb County to impose an additional penny sales tax for transportation purposes — increasing the sales tax from the current 7 cents to 8 cents — but only if each and every municipality within the county agreed to allow this sales tax to go to a referendum. I voted against this bill. It narrowly failed on the House floor.

House Bill 819 – This bill would have stopped Fulton County Tax Commissioner Arthur Ferdinand from personally profiting from the sale of property tax liens to a private company. The bill passed the House with my full support but never passed the Senate.

Lakeside and Tucker – Near the end of this year’s legislative session, a compromise was struck to enable these two proposals for new cities in Central DeKalb to move forward. Unfortunately, a legal technicality made it impossible to pass the compromise this year. Although the bills are taking a one-year lap, both proposals likely will receive legislative consideration next year.


Rep. Jacobs Bills Reach Governor’s Desk

March 30, 2014

The 2014 legislative session concluded on March 20, 2014, earlier than any other legislative session in the past 18 years. This is the first of a series of messages to update you on what passed and what didn’t pass this year.

I am pleased to report that every bill I was pushing this year has passed and is awaiting Governor Deal’s approval or already has been signed into law. These five bills are as follows:

1&2. House Bill 264 and House Bill 265 (click to read the bills) – These bills, known as the “MARTA bills,” have been a three-year project. The MARTA board of directors currently has 11 voting members. Four of these members are appointed by the DeKalb County Commission, and three are appointed by the Fulton County Commission. Of the Fulton members, two are required to be residents of North Fulton. HB 264 will change one of the DeKalb members to be appointed by a caucus of the DeKalb mayors. The two North Fulton members will be appointed by a caucus of the North Fulton mayors. This will give cities such as Sandy Springs, Brookhaven, Chamblee and Dunwoody direct influence on the MARTA board.

HB 264 streamlines the required collective bargaining process with the transit union by eliminating an inefficient arbitration proceeding. The superior court judge who now will resolve collective bargaining issues on a 90-day deadline will be required to take into account MARTA’s ten-year financial projections in making a decision on union demands. MARTA also will be given more flexibility to manage its financial resources, including three years of relief from the “50-50 split” which requires 50 percent of all sales tax revenues to be allocated to capital projects and no more than 50 percent on operations.

HB 264 gives MARTA the authority to impose fines and penalties on riders who engage in nuisance behavior. This is an effort to enhance public safety on the system.

HB 265, the other bill of the pair, repeals two outdated provisions of the general Georgia Code pertaining to MARTA. It also gives Clayton County voters the opportunity to join MARTA if they vote no later than 2016 to pay the penny sales tax that is charged in Fulton and DeKalb.

As I have said previously, I am pleased that MARTA is privatizing key operations on its own, without any legislative mandates. MARTA is beginning to see cost savings from this effort.

Thank you to Senator Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) and Senator Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody) for their assistance in the Senate in ensuring passage of these two bills.

3. House Bill 979 (click to read) – This bill completes the reduction of the DeKalb County Board of Education from nine seats to seven seats effective January 1, 2015. Governor Deal signed this bill into law on February 26, 2014, the same day it achieved final passage in the General Assembly.

HB 979 scraps the two “super districts” that each encompass half the county, retains the seven existing single-member districts that are fairly and logically drawn, and will ensure stable governance on our formerly troubled school board. Without HB 979, this year’s school board elections could not have gone forward. Click here for a WABE news story regarding this bill.

Thank you to Senator Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody) and Senator Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur) for their help in passing HB 979 in the Senate.

4. Senate Bill 386 (click to read) – This bill requires redaction of personal information such as social security numbers and bank account numbers in civil filings in state court. This privacy measure was a joint effort with Senator John Albers (R-Roswell). It is modeled after Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5.2, which is a similar rule that applies in federal court.

5. House Bill 1136 (click to read) – This bill authorizes the City of Brookhaven to utilize tax allocation districts (TADs) if the citizens vote in favor of this redevelopment mechanism in a referendum this November. TADs do not impose new or additional taxes, but rather allow the marginal increases in commercial property taxes that automatically may result from commercial redevelopment to be used for infrastructure improvements in a localized area.

This bill was passed at the request of the City of Brookhaven. If approved by the voters, TADs could be used to spur redevelopment in areas such as Buford Highway in the future.


DeKalb School Board Shrinks to 7 Seats

March 2, 2014

A month ago, the school accrediting agency SACS took the DeKalb County School System off of probation, which is the status one step away from complete accreditation loss. The system had been placed on probation approximately one year earlier for mismanagement, dysfunction and other shortcomings of the school board.

As a result of the school system being placed on probation, and pursuant to state law, Governor Deal replaced six out of the nine members of the school board with individuals who have conducted themselves in a professional, even-keeled manner. Governor Deal deserves credit for setting events in motion that are causing our school system’s accreditation status to be restored.

DeKalb County is under a state mandate, adopted in 2011 but effective for the first time in this year’s elections, to reduce the size of the school board from nine to seven members. Fewer members is more efficient and reduces the possible agendas involved.

The current school board is comprised of seven single-member districts and two “super districts” that each contain half the county. The current single-member school board districts are compact and logical, and to a significant extent follow school attendance zones.

In the very short period of 17 days, I proposed, the House and Senate passed, and Governor Deal signed into law House Bill 979 (click for more information), a bipartisan bill that will shrink the school board to seven members by peeling off the two super districts.

WABE radio (click for story) explained why quick action was necessary. If HB 979 failed to pass, the school board election process that begins this Monday could not go forward.

The DeKalb House Delegation responded by proposing a disastrous redistricting map for the school board. To view this proposed map side-by-side with the existing map, click on the graphic that is embedded in the WABE story linked above.

The abominable redistricting proposal contains a series of seven long north-to-south districts. These districts would assure that most of the current board members won’t return.

The proposed map flies in the face of the recommendations of Dr. Mark Elgart, CEO of SACS, who has noted that stability and continuity are essential to continued improvement in DeKalb’s accreditation status.

The map also was put forward with no allowance whatsoever for public input. I am certain this is not the map that citizens anywhere in the county would endorse.

Fortunately, the passage of HB 979 will trump this nonsense. With the accreditation of our schools on the line, now is not the time to redraw districts in a manner that virtually guarantees disruption of the progress the school board has made.


Schools Closed Friday But Sanitation Resumes

February 13, 2014

DeKalb County Public Schools will be closed tomorrow, Friday, February 14. Fulton County schools already had a holiday scheduled for Friday, which will not change.

DeKalb County Sanitation, however, will resume service tomorrow. Tuesday pick-ups will be Friday, Thursday will be Saturday, and Friday will be Sunday.

Much of our community has trash service on Tuesday and Friday. If this is you, tomorrow is your day.

Also, remember that sanitation service will occur on a modified schedule next week because of Presidents’ Day. Next week all collections will run one day late until Thursday, February 20, when the normal schedule will resume.


Schools Closed Thursday & Power Outage Information

February 12, 2014

DeKalb and Fulton schools will be closed tomorrow, Thursday, February 13.

If you experience a power outage or downed power line, Georgia Power’s 24/7 hotline for reporting these issues is (888) 891-0938.

Georgia Power also has a handy online map for tracking power outages. Here is the link for the outage map:

outagemap.georgiapower.com

WSB-TV has an up-to-date list of closings. Please click here to find current information regarding weather-related closings.

If you experience a prolonged power outage, the cities of Brookhaven and Chamblee have opened four emergency warming shelters throughout our community:

Brookhaven Police Department, 2665 Buford Highway, Brookhaven, GA 30324

DeKalb County Fire Station #2, 1316 Dresden Drive, Brookhaven, GA 30319

Cowart Family/Ashford Dunwoody YMCA, 3692 Ashford Dunwoody Road, Brookhaven, GA 30319

Chamblee Civic Center, 3540 Broad Street, Chamblee, GA 30341

Please note that individuals seeking shelter at the YMCA must contact the Brookhaven Emergency Operations Center at (404) 637-0596 for access. Special thanks to DeKalb County for opening Fire Station #2 as a shelter.


Schools Closed Wednesday & Georgia Power Hotline

February 11, 2014

DeKalb County Public Schools will be closed tomorrow, Wednesday, February 12. Fulton County announced yesterday that schools will be closed Wednesday, as well.

Widespread — and probably universal — closings are expected Wednesday. Tomorrow’s winter storm is anticipated to be worse than the storm two weeks ago. This storm is expected to be more of an ice event, which could cause downed trees and power lines.

If you experience a power outage or downed power line, Georgia Power’s 24/7 hotline for reporting these issues is (888) 891-0938.

WSB-TV has an up-to-date list of closings. Please click here to find current information regarding additional weather-related closings.

Some local governments are posting updated information on their websites, which are as follows:

Brookhaven brookhavenga.gov

Chamblee chambleega.com

Doraville doravillega.us

Dunwoody dunwoodyga.gov

Sandy Springs sandyspringsga.gov

DeKalb County co.dekalb.ga.us

Fulton County fultoncountyga.gov

MARTA itsmarta.com


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