A study released Nov. 7 shows that a proposed city of Brookhaven would be possible financially and residents would receive more services for the same tax dollars they’re currently paying DeKalb County.
The feasibility study, performed by the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute, was paid for by Citizens for North DeKalb, a non-profit, non-partisan organization composed of residents, to explore Brookhaven’s municipal options.
“The feasibility study was a community effort and we depended on private donors from all sides,” Linley Jones, a spokeswoman for Citizens for North DeKalb, said. “The feasibility study cost $27,000 and our further mission is to disseminate that information.”
Jones said the group is continuing to raise money to distribute the results of the study to residents, but once they feel they have educated as many people as possible about Brookhaven’s options the group will disband.
“We are not a political organization and do not advocate a political position,” Jones said. “Anything that happens from this point forward would be the role of our legislators and our residents.”
According to the study, Brookhaven would have approximately $28.5 million estimated annual revenue and annual expenditures of approximately $25.1 million, leaving it with a $3.4 million surplus.
Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Atlanta) was instrumental in drawing the boundaries of the proposed city and presented a bill earlier in the year to the Georgia General Assembly that paved the way for an eventual cityhood vote in 2012.
Jacobs said the study shows if Brookhaven became a city it would be able to cap its millage rate for municipal services at the same level of 6.39 mills that it is currently being charged by DeKalb County.
“We have collected some info about how many police patrols DeKalb is putting on the ground in the forefront of the proposed city, and we know that the peer cities selected for the study are doing more than that,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs said if Brookhaven residents voted in favor of a city, the projected $3.4 million surplus could be used for a property tax rollback much like what happened when Dunwoody became a city.
“Ultimately that’s a decision for a city council to make but I would surmise that there would be some sort of semblance of a property tax rollback. That’s what happened in Dunwoody. Brookhaven could be the second city to make that happen,” Jacobs said.
However, DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis said that there needs to be better rules in the state legislature before the county continued to create new cities that “borrow revenue from one place to another.”
“If our [residents] want an added layer of governance, that’s not necessarily a bad idea, but it shouldn’t be done in a way that is divisive,” Ellis said. “I would hope that we could go to our legislature and let them put some better rules in place. We’ll work with them to do that before we continue incorporating new areas.”
Recently, DeKalb County officials asked the general assembly to table any cityhood votes for a year until more research could be done on how a city of Brookhaven would affect the county. However, Jacobs said that was unlikely.
“I doubt that proposal will get any traction in the General Assembly,” Jacobs said.
The study defines the city as being 12.02 square miles, with boundaries of the Fulton County line to the west, the city of Dunwoody to the north, the city of Chamblee to the east, and to the south, a portion of I-85.
Rep. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta) also serves residents in the Brookhaven area who have expressed concerns about the way the boundaries of the proposed city have been drawn.
“I represent people that are outside the boundaries that are concerned about it and some of them are in a pretty isolated strip,” Parent said.
According to Parent, the proposed city would leave several neighborhoods east of Clairmont Road and off Buford Highway in an isolated area of unincorporated DeKalb.
“I do see a lot of benefits and it gives people a little more control over their local area because the county is very big…I don’t know if forming a new city is the way to handle that problem, but if people are concerned it might make more sense to annex,” Parent said.
Jacobs is hosting the second of two town hall meetings Nov. 17 to talk to residents and stakeholders about the study. The meeting will be at 7 p.m. at Montgomery Elementary School on Ashford Dunwoody Road.
“I anticipate there will be further discussion about the boundaries as we move forward, and I’m open to talking with neighborhoods in the area, the city of Chamblee and even the county,” Jacobs said.