Doraville voters recently passed a referendum that will change the city’s government to one with a part-time mayor and a full-time city manager, making it one of the last cities in DeKalb County to convert to such a form of government.
The close vote—50.47 percent voting yes and 49.53 voting no—means by 2014 the mayor and city council will have to hire a city manager and share some of their powers to run the city.
“I respect the voters and we’re going to support them. I think that we need to find the most professional person when we’re hiring a city manager, and we need to make sure that we find the right one,” Doraville Mayor Donna Pittman said.
Pittman also made clear it would still be important for the mayor to maintain a close relationship with residents even though he or she would have less power. She said it was important for residents to continue to have the opportunity to speak openly with their mayor.
“I think it’s very important that you maintain the relationship that [residents] enjoy with the mayor. [Residents] like that one-on-one and I think that’s very important,” Pittman said.
Councilwoman Karen Pachuta, who was in support of the referendum, said having a city manager would make running the city’s day-to-day operations smoother. Pachuta echoed Pittman and said the most important role for the mayor would be being a liaison to businesses and residents.
“I hope with the new form of government, the council can concentrate more on policy rather than also having to be involved in day to day operations as it currently [does],” Pachuta said.
Pittman’s assistant Luke Howe, said the idea for the change had been “batted around” for years but only gained traction recently. Howe said that in 1981 the city went from a city manager to a full-time mayor form of government by referendum, which is why it chose the same route to go back.
“They’ve got some time to put together a job description and try to find somebody,” Howe said.
In addition to the binding referendum, Doraville voters passed a homestead exemption referendum that provides a tax exemption for municipal purposes in the amount of $25,000 of the assessed value of the homestead of residents.
Currently, Howe said the city’s homestead exemption was $50,000 with a 100 percent exemption for people older than 75. However, the new referendum will repeal that and implement a $25,000 exemption across the board.
“Right now, as it is, $50,000 is incredibly high and most of the town wasn’t paying city taxes at all and [this is] going to help the financial situation a lot,” Howe said.
Voters in the city also passed a redevelopment referendum that will allow the city to execute redevelopment powers under the “Redevelopment Powers Law,” which gives the city the authority to sell bonds to finance infrastructure and other redevelopment costs.
“It enables the establishment of a tax allocation district, and that’s all it does. It’s just something that a city like [ours] needs to have in its toolbox,” Howe said.