Cityhood FAQ's

This page is designed to serve as a quick reference guide on the cityhood issues.  We will update it as new information becomes available.  -- CHCA Board, December 1, 2012.


You can expand or collapse the outline by clicking the + or - icons at the beginning of a level.



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  • + - Scenarios

    What happens if one or more entities incorporate?

    • + - Scenario A : Existing cities annex commercial areas

      Existing cities in DeKalb annex more commercial areas, with or without adjoining residential areas.

      • City of Decatur proposed annexations

        Web page with info on annexation issues, including maps, FAQ's, tax calculator.

      • + - Impacts on county taxes or services
        • "If a commercial district is annexed into a city, it remains subject to county property taxes. It is possible that, pursuant to a service delivery agreement, certain county taxes attributable to specific services that would be provided in the future by the city might no longer be levied on that property, but the general countywide property taxes would still apply to annexed property. The annexed property would simply no longer be paying for county services that it is no longer receiving from the county; it would, however, continue to pay for the basic county services (e.g., sheriff, jails, courts) that it continued to receive from the county. The county would still receive significant property tax revenue from these properties following annexation, and it's possible that through the redevelopment spurred by annexation the property values would increase yielding more in property taxes for the county. If the annexed property happened to contain any hotels, and the annexing city had a hotel-motel tax, the hotel-motel tax would be payable to the city and not the county; the same would be true for taxes on alcoholic beverages. But by and large, the property tax base would remain subject to county property taxes (this is not the case with respect to school taxes when the annexing city has a city school system, like Decatur or Atlanta)." -- Gwin Hall, local resident, via email 2012-11-16, published with permission.

    • + - Scenario B : We incorporate

      We create a city with surrounding neighborhoods and commercial areas

      • + - Boundaries
        • If neighborhoods of central DeKalb wanted to incorporate, what would be the boundaries?
        • Would "Central DeKalb" define an "identity" or community?
      • + - Process

        What are the legal procedures for incorporating?

        • + - Process of Incorporation

          Notes from meeting 2012-11-13 by Kevin Levitas.

          • By legislative rule, the process to form a city must take at least two years.

            A feasibility study (usually conducted by the Carl Vinson Institute) must be conducted. The cost of the study would range from approximately $20,000-$30,000, which funds must be raised by the community seeking incorporation (as opposed to being funded by the Legislature).

            If legislation were passed by the General Assembly, it would likely be in the form of "general" (full General Assembly) as opposed to "local" (county delegation only) legislation.

            If city-charter legislation is passed and signed into law, then a date would be set for a referendum within the boundaries of the new city to decide whether to create the new city.

            If the referendum passes, then municipal a date for elections would be set.

            The Governor may appoint a commission to help guide the transition to becoming a city.

            For two years after passage of the referendum, the new city can continue to use county services.

      • + - Tax base
        • A new city usually requires a substantial amount of commercial and industrial property; residential property taxes alone are usually insufficient to operate a city.

          Notes from meeting 2012-11-13 by Kevin Levitas.

      • + - Services
        • Former DeKalb Commissioner Yates offered police services should be budgeted at the rate of approximately four officers per thousand residents.

          Notes from meeting 2012-11-13 by Kevin Levitas.

      • + - City "Light"
        • A city could incorporate as a "city light," providing on a few services, such as zoning, to keep operating costs low while retaining local control over certain services.

          Notes from meeting 2012-11-13 by Kevin Levitas.

      • + - Community Improvement District (CID)
        • Tucker may prefer CID to Cityhood

          Champion Newspaper 8/31/12

        • + - What are Community Improvement Districts (CIDs)?
          • Authorized by Article IX, Section VII of the Georgia Constitution, a community improvement district (CID) is a mechanism for funding certain governmental services including street and road construction and maintenance, parks and recreation, storm water and sewage systems, water systems, public transportation systems, and other services and facilities. The administrative body of the CID, which can be the city governing authority, may levy taxes, fees and assessments within the CID, not to exceed 2.5 percent of the assessed value of the real property. Such taxes, fees and assessments may only be levied on real property that is used for non-residential purposes and revenues may be used only to provide governmental services and facilities within the CID. Bonded debt is permitted, but such debt may not be considered an obligation of the state or any other unit of government other than the CID.

            Georgia Cities Foundation.

        • + - How is a CID created?
          • The General Assembly may create a CID by local legislation. The creation of a CID is conditioned on approval of the municipal government if the CID would be entirely within the municipality and approval from both the municipal government and the county government if the CID would be partially in the incorporated area and partially within the unincorporated area. Additionally, the creation of a CID is contingent on receiving the written consent of a majority of the owners of the real property within the CID that would be subject to CID taxes, fees and assessments, as well as the owners of the real property within the CID that constitutes 75 percent or more by value of all real property within the CID which will be subject to CID taxes, fees and assessments.

            Georgia Cities Foundation.

    • + - Scenario C : Others incorporate around us

      Other areas in DeKalb create cities

      • + - Tucker?
      • + - The Dunwoody Experience

        Notes from meeting 2012-11-13 by Kevin Levitas.

        • Dunwoody has about 39% commercial and industrial property, which provided a vital revenue stream.

          When the city was formed, it broke up service contracts to fund interim services that it could not afford initially.

          The revenue generated from residential property taxes is approximately $350/person.

          Dunwoody is now running a fund surplus of approximately $2-3 million and has the lowest tax burden in DeKalb

    • + - Scenario D : DeKalb County incorporates as a City

      All unincorporated areas in DeKalb incorporate as City of DeKalb

      • There is a state senate study committee considering the incorporation of all unincorporated areas of DeKalb County.
      • Any legislative proposal for the City of DeKalb would probably not pass either chamber at this time.

        Notes from meeting 2012-11-13 by Kevin Levitas.

      • Creation of the City of DeKalb would foreclose the possibility of forming any additional cities within DeKalb.

        Notes from meeting 2012-11-13 by Kevin Levitas.

      • The City of DeKalb could begin to collect new city streams of revenue, such utility franchise (right-of-way) fees.

        Notes from meeting 2012-11-13 by Kevin Levitas.

      • It is estimated that the creation of the City of DeKalb would generate approximately $30 million in new revenue.

        Notes from meeting 2012-11-13 by Kevin Levitas.

      • A City of Dekalb would have a lower median income and average home value than the county as a whole.

        From a report submitted to the study committee per CrossRoadsNews 2012-11-30.

  • + - Schools

    Are school districts or taxes affected in any of the scenarios?

  • + - Services

    What county services could be affected in these scenarios?

    • + - County vs City Services

      Notes from meeting 2012-11-13 by Kevin Levitas.

      • + - Traditional county services
        • Jails
        • Office of the Sheriff
        • Courts
        • Roads
      • + - Traditional city services
        • Police
        • Parks
        • Zoning
        • Roads
    • + - Changes Resulting from Incorporation

      Notes from meeting 2012-11-13 by Kevin Levitas.

      • Any new city would still pay for certain county services and could (but is not required to) contract with other cities or counties (including DeKalb) for the continued provision of services such as trash collection, fire, police, etc.

        A new city would take over current city revenue streams being collected by the county ("special services").

        A new city must provide at least three services from a list of government services to be considered a city (such as police, zoning, etc.)

  • + - Taxes

    How, if at all, would the various scenarios affect our taxes?

    • + - Traditional city revenue sources

      Notes from meeting 2012-11-13 by Kevin Levitas.

      • Business licenses
      • Hotel taxes
      • Ad valorem taxes
      • HOST proceeds
    • + - Property taxes as proportion of county revenue

      Notes from meeting 2012-11-13 by Kevin Levitas.

      • Property taxes pay for approximately 25% of total county revenue
  • + - Politics
    • "Cityhood is a contentious issue in metropolitan Atlanta, one rooted in and shaped by politics and race. Wealthier, largely white communities on the city's north side, which watched for years as their tax dollars were spent in poorer, mostly minority areas elsewhere in the two counties, had sought for years to break away and incorporate as cities with more local control."

      USA Today, 2012-07-30.

  • + - Our representatives

    What do our elected officials say?

    • + - Commissioner Jeff Rader

      Commissioner Jeff Rader's website.

    • + - Commissioner Kathie Gannon

      Commissioner Kathie Gannon's website.

      • + - Comments on City of Brookhaven study September, 2011

        Kathie Gannon's newsletter.

        • A sufficient amount of commercial, retail and apartment properties are being drawn into the “city” [Brookhaven] to create a tax base that will make a city financially stable. Moving this tax base into a city will have a financial impact on the rest of DeKalb County. It also creates a vulnerable and unstable condition for those residential neighborhoods, around these commercial properties, that are left out of the boundaries because they are residential. Residential properties cost more in tax funds to serve and pay less in taxes then commercial properties.

          I also have questions about whether cityhood is the right solution for the problems that are to be fixed. The problems to be “fixed” have yet to be articulated. They were not identified during any of the community meetings and are not a part of the study. There are a wide variety of tools and options to deal with identifiable issues. Forming a city is one way to go, but an additional layer of government may not be the right solution.

    • + - State Rep. Rahn Mayo

      Rahn Mayo official government web page.

      Rahn Mayo campaign website.

      • No known statements as of 2012-11-18
    • + - State Senator Jason Carter

      Official GA gov web page.

      Campaign website.

      • No known statements as of 2012-11-18
  • + - Resources

    Where did we get this information?

    • Champion Newspaper

      Champion Newspaper articles on cityhood.

    • + - Civic Association Network (CAN)

      CAN archive of documents on cityhood:

      Fact sheet on incorporation.

      Brookhaven study.

      City of DeKalb meeting notes, maps, stats.

      Tucker study.

      • Central DeKalb civic association rep's and activists.
    • Clairmont Heights Civic Association (CHCA)

      CHCA posts on cityhood.

    • Medlock Area Neighborhood Association (MANA)

      MANA posts on cityhood.

    • + - North DeKalb Cityhood Blog (NDCB)

      State rep. Kevin Levitas' blog.

      •  "This site exists to foster a constructive discussion of the possibility of forming a city for a northern portion of DeKalb County.  Since there is not yet an "official" group studying this matter, this blog is not sponsored (monetarily or otherwise) by any organization or other entity.  It was created solely by me (Kevin Levitas) and should not be construed as representing any other person or entity." [Levitas is state rep. for district 82.]

    • North Druid Hills Patch (Patch)

      Patch articles on cityhood.