State Law Allowing Cityhood Creates Economic Classism

Drawing on historic comparison, Ellis calls Jacobs opinion piece 'nonsense'

There may be a reason for residents of DeKalb County to consider voting for another layer of government, but it is not the nonsense presented by Rep. Mike Jacobs in his op-ed on cityhood. Any eighth grade history student knows the American Revolution was conceived on the flawed principle of taxation without representation.  What we have here is exploitation of current state law based on bad public policy.  This is why:

When choice commercial and residential properties are usurped into newly proposed cities, it increases the tax burden for everyone who is left outside of the city limits. This is actually a more accurate application of Jacobs’ analogy. The citizens and businesses of DeKalb who will shoulder the cost (i.e. increased tax burden) of a new city cannot vote on it under current law.  That’s taxation without representation.

 The current law also creates economic classism and dilutes the voting strength of minorities. It moves us as a county and region further away from the “beloved community” that our native son, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., often advocated. 

It is wrong to mislead residents into thinking that somehow their taxes will go down if they create a new city. Ask any newly created city, revenues are always over-estimated and expenses are underestimated. It is time to tell the truth to our citizens—if the referendum passes, residents of Ashford/Brookhaven will pay more in property taxes than they do right now.

It is also a tactic of Rep. Jacobs to bring out the “wasteful government” boogeyman. Let’s examine the facts:  Since 2009, I have cut spending by $130 million and the overall operating budget has declined from $636 million to $559 million. We are working with 1,000 fewer employees than we had in 2008, and maintaining the same levels of government services. We are the most efficient government of its size, anywhere.

State lawmakers should address the inequity in the law that pits cities against counties and neighbors against neighbors.  Let us work on those things that bind us together as ONE DeKalb, as one beloved community. Rep. Jacobs’ divisive rhetoric harkens back to a time and era that this state, region and nation have long since rejected.”


Burrell Ellis is the CEO of DeKalb County.

Thomas Porter March 02, 2012 at 02:42 PM
@Resident 30319, the process would seem to be better served by creating a detailed and vetted credible study of the actual costs first, followed real poll of ALL people in the proposed city limits to determine whether to proceed with any legislation. If that was done I missed it (and I'm still missing an accurate study).
Booyah March 02, 2012 at 02:48 PM
I think it is our elected officials who decide what referendum question goes on our ballot. Some things they get to decide in the legislature somethings have to come to us for a vote.
Booyah March 02, 2012 at 02:54 PM
@Thomas Porter Why would you suggest the CVI document is not a study of accurate costs. Please name an organization that you would use instead of the University of Georgia.
NorthDeKalbCounty.org March 02, 2012 at 03:05 PM
At the core of this action concerning the City of Ashford, a line was crossed. I think the sheer excitement of the idea got those who are driving it moving too quickly. Government, while its not always popular, is designed to move at a slow pace, as the decisions that are made are profound. It is much easier to make a bad decision than it is to remedy it. That's why due diligence is so important.
Booyah March 02, 2012 at 03:28 PM
@NorthDekalb Who decides if an action is moving 'too quickly' or 'too slowly'? If more voters than not believe the city initiative has moved too quickly, it will be defeated in July. If on the other hand, more voters believe they have sufficient information and vote in favor of the initiative it will pass. In the end, it's the voters who will decide if the speed of the process was correct.
NorthDeKalbCounty.org March 02, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Ok. I'm wrong. You're right. This could go on and on and on. Have a great day. And I hope which ever way this goes, it's the way that benefits everyone. Sigh.
Mark Graffagnino March 02, 2012 at 04:26 PM
How embarrassing that this is what passes for political discussion/debate by our so called leaders….blatantly false statements. “Ask any newly created city, revenues are always over-estimated and expenses are underestimated.” Not in Dunwoody. Not in Johns Creek. Not in Milton. Not in Sandy Springs. “if the referendum passes, residents of Ashford/Brookhaven will pay more in property taxes than they do right now.” There is a millage cap in the bill which guarantees the millage rate will be at about 3 mills LESS than is currently in unincorporated DeKalb. And to make this statement after raising property taxes in the Brookhaven footprint by almost 80%. Unbelievable. “We are the most efficient government of its size, anywhere.” This is just more amusing than anything.
Enuff Govt Already March 02, 2012 at 04:47 PM
Dunwoody's 5 year financial forecast shows they will be spending more than they take in starting next year. Johns Creek is looking for money to fund promised road prjects. Mlton's financial projections also show more in expenses than revenue. The CVI/Brookhaven also states there is a deficit of $1,272,623 based on revenue estimates using 2010 taxes.
HamBurger March 02, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Ms. Anthony, I am not talking about family visits. I am talking about visits to DC to lay ground for a nice job in the next Obama administration. Please pass that yellow mustard . . .
HamBurger March 02, 2012 at 05:42 PM
Resident 30319, Does the Vinson study show cost projections out to say twenty years? You know, something to show that after a number of years the city will not be having problems like East Point is having? May I have some thin sliced onions?
Chuck Konas March 02, 2012 at 06:49 PM
I had to laugh when I read Rep. Jacob's attempt to compare this Cityhood issue with the American revolution. His analogy not only shows his ignorance of our history but also to what lengths we will go to try to distort the truth. Except for the brave soldiers who faced the British, France was the only reason we won our independence. The only analogy to be made between this issue and the American revolution is our taxation without his proper representation. His actions in this issue have been deplorable.
NorthDeKalbCounty.org March 02, 2012 at 06:53 PM
One could say that Mikes article could have been a little insight into his character. One could say. Not me. But one. You know. That guy.
HamBurger March 03, 2012 at 01:16 AM
Interesting . . . I have asked that question several times now and I just cannot seem to get an answer. Pass those thin sliced pickles to if you don’t mind . . .
William March 12, 2012 at 06:46 PM
'It is wrong to mislead residents into thinking that somehow their taxes will go down if they create a new city. Ask any newly created city, revenues are always over-estimated and expenses are underestimated." So every city must have busted into the $40 Million reserve fund, ruined their credit rating, raised taxes by 25% to cover that gap, and haven't dealt with the problem of unfunded pensions just like the CEO's budgets have done over the past few years, right? Oh...you mean Dunwoody, Milton, Johns Creek, Sandy Springs, and even older cities like Roswell, (http://www.roswellgov.com/index.aspx?nid=126), Smyrna (http://www.ci.smyrna.ga.us/index.aspx?page=419), and Marietta (http://www.mariettaga.gov/city/news/readarticle?id=1621) haven't had to raise their millage rates and destroy their reserves over the same period of time? Wait...well, at least the CEO has taken care of that unfunded pension problem following the lead of the City of Atlanta...wait, who? (http://blogs.ajc.com/political-insider-jim-galloway/2011/06/23/the-deal-is-struck-atlanta-pension-overhaul-agreement-reached/) It's ironic that the CEO cites a fictional character like the 'boogeyman'....because clearly sometimes truth is much scarier than fiction.
William March 12, 2012 at 06:53 PM
(I tried typing this once) I'll try again. Here are the facts. DeKalb's population increased by only 4% from 2001 to 2011. Unincorporated DeKalb's population decreased by 4%. Again those are facts. Feel free to check the US Census Bureau for those numbers. The tax funds budget in 2001 was $420 M. In 2011, it was $542 M. The budget increased by over 29% while population in unincorporated DeKalb shrunk. DeKalb is spending 30 to 40% more PER CAPITA than it did in 2001. That is truly remarkable. It's even more remarkable that the CEO tries to make the efficiency argument with a straight face based upon those numbers. Don't take my word for it...here is Commission Jeff Rader saying the same thing in 2010. "In 2001, the first year of the former CEO’s administration, DeKalb County had a $420 million budget. If that budget was sufficient to fulfill the county’s mandate at that time, then it should have continued to be the benchmark in the subsequent years while allowing for inflationary and population increases." http://repjacobs.com/2010/02/08/not-the-time-for-business-as-usual/
HDM March 12, 2012 at 06:56 PM
Thank you William, we all know how poor of a job DeKalb County Government has been as stewards of our budget, but this clearly quantifies it.
William March 12, 2012 at 07:25 PM
By the way, I love that Enuff and Chip cite ZERO sources. Dunwoody will be spending more than they take in next year? That might be news to the City of Dunwoody. By the way, if you are interested in FACTS try using sources. The CEO said 'revenues are always 'over-estimated'...is that easy to fact check? Yes, it is. Carl Vinson predicted $18.7 M in annual revenue for Dunwoody. http://www.jkheneghan.com/city/Task_Force/Finance_Admin/CVI_Dunwoody_Feasibility_Study_Update_20080113.pdf Dunwoody had $26.1 M in revenue in 2011. http://en.calameo.com/read/0004297460de820b03e41 See how easy that was? The CEO isn't telling the truth. Here it is again... Sandy Springs...CVI in 2003(!) estimated revenues of $66-$73 Million. http://www.cviog.uga.edu/free-downloads/sandy-springs-incorporation.pdf Sandy Springs in 2012...almost 10 years later. After running at $80M, Revenues are down from 2011 $5.3 M to......$75M. http://www.sandyspringsga.org/getmedia/e830764d-731f-40d5-a656-c9d532a14621/FY12-Budget-Presentation-%282011-05.24%29;;.aspx;.html See how easy that is? The CEO cites a statistic. You do a google search and you can find that it isn't accurate.
Enuff Govt Already March 12, 2012 at 10:16 PM
@William--try Heneghan's blog on Jan 22, 2012 for Dunwoody's financial forecast(dunwoodynorth.blogspot.com/2012/01/city-of-dunwoody-financial-forecast.html) and try the CityofMilton/Finance and check either Budget or Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports...hope that helps
William March 12, 2012 at 10:56 PM
It does help...it helps see that your opinions have no basis in facts. 1) Those show Dunwoody projections through FY 2015. That doesn't match your '5 year financial forecast.' 2) That was a forecast that was for the Dunwoody city planning retreat as part of a presentation on maintaining competitiveness and budget flexibility in the coming years. It was NOT an official forecast for Dunwoody finances. 3) For example, the report you cite understates budgeted revenues for 2012 by almost $1M based upon the actual Dunwoody FY 2012 budget. http://www.dunwoodyga.gov/2012%20Approved%20Budget%20-%20Downloadable.pdf 4) Vague references to 'try this' or 'try that' don't really help your credibility. 5) Here is a real reference to the City of Milton's budget. They currently have a reserve fund of $7.8 M. Here is a quote from that budget "Since the City has built such a healthy fund balance to be utilized for capital expenditures, we are proposing for the first time that we should use these reserves to fund a few of the capital projects this year, namely the intersection improvements for the Hopewell Rd/Francis Rd/Cogburn Rd intersection and additional funding for pavement management. The recommended appropriation of the fund balance is $1,298,871. The remaining fund balance is projected to be around $6.5 million." I don't fault anyone for their opinion. But I fault for spreading factually inaccurate info.
HamBurger March 12, 2012 at 11:30 PM
Mr. William, we missed you at the Senate committee hearing today. It was interesting hearing folks state their reasons for their opposition to the new city. One of my favorite citizen responses was the lady that had some dealings with Milton that had a friend living in the new city of Peachtree Corners. It is not a good thing to have your city compared to a homeowners association. Have you ever been associated with a homeowners association? Seasoned landowners tend to avoid them like the plague; the beauty of single family residence in unincorporated DeKalb with a property not connected to a HOA. The icing on the cake was that one of the committee members asked for a show of hands of attendees in favor of a new city. The first two rows were smacking their lips on Chick-Fil-A sammiches voting yes and the rest of us were voting NO NEW CITY. Talley? ¼ yes, ¾ NO! Sientific and representative of the voting population? No, but a good start. Additionally, there was a lot of information shared that contradicted the highly praised Vinson study. Hamburgers for lunch tomorrow with thin sliced pickles and onions and yellow mustard tomorrow!
Booyah March 12, 2012 at 11:56 PM
I heard that most who favor a city have to work for a living and couldn't attend.
HamBurger March 13, 2012 at 01:48 AM
Maybe you are right. However, there were a lot of folks not smacking on their Chick-Fil-A that were there because they felt it so important that they appear to oppose this city that is about to be crammed down their throats that they took off work to oppose it. Did these “YES” folks not feel that this was important enough for their appearance? Evidently not, where were they? Rep. Taylor was red-faced and walking around like a cat on a hot tin roof. He just could not find a seat to suit him. There were several times when legitimate information was presented against a new city Rep. Jacobs had a WTF look on his face. That is right, Rep. Jacobs, WTF? How dare you force your ill-prepared city on citizens not willing to comply with your abuse of our desires. Rep. Jacobs, Rep. Taylor, and company would be better served assisting in correcting our existing county government and school system instead of wasting our time with new city non-sense!
NorthDeKalbCounty.org March 13, 2012 at 03:18 AM
Hey folks. I video taped the entire meeting. All 3 hours of it. I'm squashing it down to post it on northdekalbcounty.org. And while you are there, fill out the survey. In the audience there were about 2/3 Opposed and 1/3 Favor the City of Ashford. There were appx 70 to 80 people there. Keep checking the site - probably mid morning tomorrow - it will be up. Thank you all for showing your support for your cause and showing up today. Big day!
William March 13, 2012 at 01:14 PM
"that is about to be crammed down their throats"- Translation, that a majority of their neighbors approve in a referendum. Glad to see rational discussion on this. Here is the point, Hamburger...every thing that is wrong with how the county delivers municipal services is encapsulated in Ellis's response above. Let's break it down: First what the CEO doesn't address in Rep. Jacobs' AJC article -Ellis doesn't address why DeKalb, the self proclaimed 'most efficient government' had to raise taxes by 26% and drain the operating fund by $40M in order to operate while surrounding governments either refused to raise the millage rate or had much lower millage rate increases during the same time period - The CEO doesn't address wasteful projects during a time of recessionary spending like the Porter Arts Center or the Soap Box Derby track - The CEO doesn't address the need for the self-proclaimed 'most efficient government' to increase its budget this year and to increase the CEO's office budget by 6.5% while projected a property digest decline of 5% Maybe I missed those...but I'm pretty sure he didn't address any of those in his response.
HamBurger March 13, 2012 at 01:39 PM
Mr. William, the senate committee meeting yesterday was very telling. The answer is not a new city, let’s band together and fix what we have. Excuse me, I have to go thin slice those onions and pickles . . .
Hank1234 March 16, 2012 at 11:05 PM
"We are tired of our tax money being spent on financing infrastructure improvements in South DeKalb county instead of being spent on financing infrastructure improvements in the neighborhood where the tax money originated from." No need to refute it; you're right! Ask someone without a microphone in their face, they'll tell you the same. I live in Brokehaven (sic) and I don't see anything wrong with wanting our "choice" tax dollars to stay around here. We earned the money to purchase the "choice" real estate, we earn the money to pay the taxes on the "choice" real estate, the money should stay close to that "choice" real estate. The same ancestors Mr. Ellis quoted in his letter would be shocked at the general acceptance of this plunder which is exactly why we have a Republic instead of a Democracy.
Hank1234 March 16, 2012 at 11:32 PM
"E Pluribus Unum" March 23, 2012 at 12:23 PM
A very good article by Commissioner Ellis. The political process has been hijacked by a well connected, influential few, using an incomplete and biased cost benefit study. Most of the community residents affected by the new city are unaware of the issues involved and have had no input. This is also true for all residents living in DeKalb County. The process needs to slow down. The entire DeKalb County residents should have an opportunity to vote of ANY new city. Finally, the tactic of creating unnecessary fear and resentment with county government to achieve political gain is obvious. What this has become is a sophisticated form of white flight IMHO.
hmm June 19, 2012 at 05:32 PM
So what is it? Brookhaven CVI study is bad and there is NOT enough MONEY to support the city or Brookhaven is poaching more than its fair share of the valuable tax base. Come on people you can't play both sides. HOLY MOLY ME OH MY! I can't believe Burrell Ellis' administration is taking a page out of Kasim Reed's playbook and paying an anonymous poster or 2 or 3 to flood message boards under different aliases with antagonistic and false information. Its effective in that it discourages the typical reader from using the message boards to ask questions and get information thus making a vote for a Change that much harder to sell. Well hope you anonymous paid posters at least spend some of your earnings in DeKalb. Because in the long run letting this ship run its course without change will hurt everyone. Incorporation of both more areas of DeKalb also helps the County Government because it allows it to focus better on the services it can deliver. Good luck, sorry I don't have time to stay, I'm on my way, but have to say, pay now or pay much more later.
HDM June 19, 2012 at 05:54 PM
You know, that is a good point, if DeKalb Government is so concerned that Brookhaven citizens are making a mistake incorporating because the CVI study is wrong (not that it is true but that is the FUD they are slinging), then the bureacracy should be glad to get the city level expenses from our area off their balance sheet...


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