Thursday, January 17, 2008

Crier - City of Dunwoody has major support

By Dick Williams for The Crier; Jan 15, 2008

One day before the Georgia General Assembly convened in Atlanta, the Citizens for Dunwoody unveiled an updated study of the viability of a city of Dunwoody and found overwhelming public support for their effort.

“I think we’re on track in the legislature,” said state Rep. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody), “barring some huge constitutional controversy among the governor and the two chambers.”

The state House for a third straight year will be asked to consider two bills allowing for a referendum on a city and transfer of property from DeKalb County to a new city.

In legislative debate last year, some members of the House Government Affairs Committee expressed concern that the 2005 budget figures on cities used as a comparison with Dunwoody were outdated.

Ken Wright, president of the citizens’ group, unveiled an updated study from the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia, presenting the data to a gathering of about 175 people Sunday at Dunwoody United Methodist Church.

In the new study, the Vinson Institute used 2006 revenue and expense figures from three new cities - Sandy Springs, Milton and John’s Creek. The full study and budget proposed for a city of Dunwoody are available at

Wright and a panel of board members of the non-profit, non-political organization showed that following peer cities could leave a new city with revenues of $18.7 million and expenses of $18.4 million. That surplus, Wright said, added to a reserve fund of $482,000 would give the city a net surplus under the same tax rates being levied by DeKalb County government.

The Vinson Institute study suggests that a tax increase would not be necessary. In addition, Wright noted, the proposed city charter specifies that if an elected city council were to seek a tax increase of more than one mill above the current rate, a referendum would be necessary.

Wright said that nothing has changed in the legislation since last year. The updated study simply uses 2006 revenue and expense figures from comparable cities.

If the legislation passes the state House and is signed by Gov. Sonny Perdue, a referendum would be held July 15. If citizens approve incorporation, a major and six city council members would be chosen September 16 and the city of Dunwoody would begin operations December 1.

Asked for a show of hands on support for a city, those in attendance at the meeting were almost unanimous. One resident opposed the city and three said they had not made up their minds. The rest supported incorporation. That was a higher rate of support for a city than was shown in a similar show of hands last January when the city had 90 percent support, with 10 percent opposing.

A city of Dunwoody is proposed to have two full-time code enforcement officers contrasted with what amounts to a half-time officer now assigned by the county. The city’s police force would staff four full-time patrols in Dunwoody. Currently, the DeKalb Police Department’s North Precinct provides three patrols shared with the rest of the county.

Under the properties bill, the North Precinct would be transferred to Dunwoody while the city would help pay for a new precinct south of I-285 to serve the parts of unincorporated DeKalb now served by the North Precinct. Four parks also would be transferred to Dunwoody.

Wright and Robert Wittenstein pointed out that while public schools would remain under the control of the county Board of Education, a city would have an indirect impact on the schools through zoning and land use.

As for the financial impact on DeKalb of Dunwoody becoming a city, the new study shows a net loss to the county of $5.2 million per year.

Wright and Wittenstein pegged that amount to be two-tenths of one percent of the county’s operating budget.

“They like to say that a city of Dunwoody would be stealing Perimeter Mall,” Wright told the group, “but all sales taxes stay with the county.”

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