If you have not been keeping up with DeKalb County’s annexation progress, please see my previous posts:
- Decatur Releases Annexation Map + Other Updates
- Dekalb County Annexation – Cityhood Subcommittee Members Appointed to Create a Final Annexation Map
- Dekalb County Annexation Update – City of Decatur, Tucker, and Other Surrounding Neighborhoods
- City of Decatur Annexation Challenges Decatur School Board
- City of Decatur Annexation – Your Questions Answered
- City of Decatur Annexation Update
City of Decatur
Today, City of Decatur’s City Commission will meet to discuss the annexation master plan as well as expanding a tax break for seniors. To learn more about the tax break, scroll to the bottom of this article. Resolving the annexation master plan is top priority.
The meeting will begin with a work session on annexation at 6:30 pm, followed by the regular meeting at 7:30 pm. The City Commission meets at 509 North McDonough Street. All meetings are open to the public.
On December 9th, City Schools of Decatur Board of Education delayed supporting the master plan. City of Decatur’s City Commission hasn’t clearly stated whether or not they will wait for the School Board to act. The School Board hopes to have a decision by their next meeting, December 18th.
Board member Lewis Jones said he wants more information about how CSD will deal with annexation on day one, assuming voters approve it in a referendum. Will CSD have enough room? Will it require altering CSD attendance zones?
“My request is a joint resolution,” Jones said. “Here are the reasons we need to annex here’s how we’re going to accomplish it in the short and long term.”
The Decatur schools system’s current enrollment is 4,336 students. A consultant’s report on enrollment estimates that the city’s school system will grow to 7,398 students by 2020 without annexation in a high-growth scenario. If the city is able to annex 1.6 square miles in its current plan, it would increase that number by 747 students.
There are financial implications for the school system if it can’t annex more property. According to a consultant’s report, property taxes will likely increase if CSD can’t find more room for its students. CSD already is in the process of expanding its high school and middle school to handle enrollment growth.
Annexation Impact on Druid Hills Cluster
Together in Atlanta’s proposal to annex the Druid Hills Cluster would “disenfranchise” thousands according to a new study by the DeKalb school district. This plan would displace students from their high school and take Fernbank Science Center as well as other assets worth tens of millions of dollars from DeKalb County.
The proposal from Together In Atlanta would call for a referendum on annexing the neighborhoods around Briar Vista Elementary, Fernbank Elementary and Druid Hills High schools into Atlanta. They are three of seven schools in the Druid Hills High cluster. The proposal also encompasses Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control.
If Atlanta Public Schools got possession of the schools in question, the majority of students currently feeding into those schools would be left behind. Druid Hills High School has 1,386 students with only 311 living within the proposed annexation area. The other 1,075 live outside the area and would be left behind, along with about 40 teachers. Dan Drake, a school district official, says that, “The problem is, we don’t know at this point where those students and teachers will be housed.”
According to Superintendent Michael Thurmond, if Georgia law allows Atlanta to take the schoools and other properties in dispute it ,”would result in the disenfranchisement and displacement of 2,922 students.” Thurmond also said that he would earmark $2.5 million from reserves to hire legal and government affiars experts who can help in “protecting what is naturally ours.”
Residents fear that the move into Atlanta would alter current taxes; Together in Atlanta issued a statement on December 9th disputing the accuracy of the school district’s tax claims (DeKalb says the bills are higher in Atlanta) and student displacement numbers.
The group (Together in Atlanta) also said it has “clearly and specifically proposed’ giving up land in its proposed annexation map that DeKalb says is worth $50 million to developers. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed supports the Druid Hills Annexation. It could occur in several ways, including apporval by the Atlanta city council or state Legislature and a majority of voters in the affected area.
To read DeKalb County Schools full report, click here.
Highlights of the DeKalb County Schools report:
- “The proposed Druid Hills annexation plan would result in the disenfranchisement and displacement of 2,922 students and district-wide loss of instructional opportunities, athletic programs, instructional staff, and funding potential.”
- The report says 1,626 students across 37 schools will no longer have access to “school choice options,” options that include attending Druid Hills High.
- Druid Hills High School would bring nearly 1,400 additional students into the Atlanta School System. Fernbank Elementary would add more than 600 students, and Briar Vista will add more than 450.
- DeKalb County would lose the ability to sell some of its property. The report says, “Together In Atlanta (TIA) claims that annexation would give APS the power to take title to the old Briarcliff HS which would result in the loss of a DCSD long-term fixed asset with received offers in excess of $50 million.”
- The report says seniors in Druid Hills will pay more in taxes because they won’t get a DeKalb County homestead exemption. It says water bills will be higher for everyone. Taxpayers would still pay for DeKalb’s bond debt while accepting new debt incurred by the city of Atlanta.
In Other Business – City of Decatur’s Senior Tax Expansion
The Decatur City Commission’s meeting tonight will consider asking for local legislation that would expand the city’s homestead tax exemption for seniors.
The legislation, if approved, would increase the general homestead exemption for persons 65 or older from $1,000 to $10,000. It also would create a $15,000 general homestead exemption for persons 62 or older whose income doesn’t exceed $50,000.
In her memo to the commission, City Manager Peggy Merriss wrote, “During the Fiscal Year 2014-2015 budget process, the City Commission requested a review of existing General Homestead exemptions and recommendations for addressing property tax relief for owner-occupied residential homes, particularly for those over 65 with fixed or low incomes. The City Commission was interested in providing relief for persons who had owned their homes for a long time who could be affected by increasing property values due to redevelopment.”
Merriss also wrote, “The annual tax property tax bill reduction for a $400,000 house would range from approximately $60 for a resident homeowner who does not qualify for additional age or income considerations to $340 for a resident homeowner who meets qualifications for all of the additional age or income considerations. The estimated reduction in property tax revenue for the General Fund is approximately $700,000.”
Please attend the meeting this evening for more information.
Below is an up to date map of the current proposed DeKalb County Annexation maps:
From your Desktop: To zoom in on the map click the “plus” sign in the bottom right hand corner of the map or do a double left click on any uncolored portion of the map. To zoom out, click the “minus” sign in the bottom right hand corner of the map or double right click on any uncolored portion.
You can also zoom in and zoom out by putting your mouse pointer over the map and using the scroll wheel.
To remove all of the coloration from the map, click the tiny box in the upper left hand corner of the map that looks like a bulleted list. It display a drop down menu. When you see the menu, click on the little box that says “proposals.” This will remove the annexation and cityhood proposals from the map. To add the proposals back, simply check the box again. You can also check and uncheck boxes for individual annexation and cityhood proposals.
From your phone or mobile device: Android and iPhone users can zoom in and out by using their thumb and index finger to enlarge and reduce the map, the same process for zooming in and zooming out of photos.
[Sources: Decatur Metro, Decaturish, MANA.]
Do you need Real Estate advice? Please contact me at NoraSells@KW.com or 404-840-2918.
– Nora Levesque