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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

But You Left Out the Franchise Fees!

Brookhaven Explains It All

Brookhaven recently mailed out a flier, titled The Facts About Property Tax In Brookhaven, to every property owner within the City limits. In an attempt to justify their position that property taxes are lower in Brookhaven when compared to adjacent areas of unincorporated DeKalb County, Brookhaven has provided a point-by-point analysis of the tax advantages supposedly enjoyed by City residents.

The Truth-O-Meter In Action!

In an article titled Claim Exaggerates Tax Savings, PolitiFact Georgia, a joint site managed by and, took a hard look at the numbers provided in the flier and attempted to determine just how accurate Brookhaven's claims actually were. Their analysis can be found HERE.

In essense, where Brookhaven claims that tax savings for a home valued at $200,00 would be $260.84 per year. PolitiFact, in its analysis, determined that the true savings for that same home would be less than $50.00 per year. Ultimately, PolitiFact rated Brookhaven's claim as Half True.

But Where Are the Franchise Fees?

In reading the both the flyer and the PolitiFact article, we note that both groups omitted the impact of franchise fees on their city revenues, exactly how much is paid by City residents and how those fees vary between the new cities and the County. In researching franchise fees, I've found it is problematic to determine exactly how they work, who pays what, who ultimately receives that revenue, and just how it is accounted for. In general, cities may collect franchise fees that the County cannot, but franchise fees are assessed on both city and county residents, often unknowingly. Some franchise fees paid by unincorporated residents are distributed to cities statewide, but not to the County which generates them. A tricky slope indeed, franchise fees.

So what impact do franchise fees have on Brookhaven's budget? And how does that compare to the County? They're not saying, and its quite possible that nobody really knows for sure.

The flier itself, after the break.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

What Do You Do When The Hired Expert . . . Isn't So Expert?


GSU Presentation to the DeKalb Operations Task Force

At the recent DeKalb County Operations Task Force meeting, held on July 16, 2014, a presentation to the Committee On Municipalization / Annexation was made by Dr. Laura Wheeler, a Senior Research Associate with the Fiscal Research Center of the GSU Andrew Young School of Policy Studies.

During her presentation, which was marred by a computer failure which kept her PowerPoint presentation from being displayed, Dr. Wheeler made several statements that some in the audience knew to be incorrect or misleading. This was disappointing to hear, considering the supposed expertise that Dr. Wheeler, and by extension, the Andrew Young School, was expected to bring to the proceedings. What is worse is that the committee members, believing her to be an expert in these matters, were highly inclined to believe that everything she referenced was true and correct. Given the minimal level of their understanding of the issues before them, and my impression that these committee members are not inclined to do their own homework, this does not bode well for the entire process.

A audio recording of the meeting can be found HERE. This is the only accurate documentation of what was said in the meeting as it was not televised or recorded by the County.

Herman Lorenz, of the City of Briarcliff Initiative, was in the audience and was equally troubled by what he heard. As Herman is one of the most knowledgeable and well-read individuals in the entire incorporation debate, his words should be heard and appreciated. His understanding and expertise on many of the issues before the Task Force would seem to go well beyond that of their hired 'expert'.

Operations Task Force - Meeting of the Committee On Municipalization/Annexation

Please note that only 5 of the 8 appointed committee members bothered to show up. (The list of committee appointments can be found HERE.) Commissioner Stan Watson, Rep. Mike Jacobs and BoE member Jim McMahan were absent. I would further note that Commissioner Watson has not shown up to ANY of the Task Force meetings.

Herman's comments, after the break.

Second Verse, Same as the First!

Clarkston Gets Its Re-vote on Annexation

The annexation in Area 1 is now scheduled for a "re-run" election on Tuesday, November 4, 2014, Election Day in the United States.

We've been closely following the proposed Clarkston annexations for a while now and earlier this week noted how the annexation question had inexplicably disappeared, given the tie vote in Area 1, and Clarkston's intent for a second vote. Having asked the question earlier this week, we now have the answers.

Clarkston had filed a petition against the DeKalb County Board of Registrations and Elections, after their refusal to allow a re-vote on the annexation of Area 1, as they maintained that the tie vote, under Georgia law, constituted a rejection of the referendum, normally requiring 50% + 1 Yes vote to pass. But as seen Clarkston's petition (which can be found HERE) they cited two reasons which justified a "Re-Run" of the vote.

1) The Bill Was Poorly Written

The local bill for annexation, HB 1128, allowed for separate votes for annexation in both Area 1 (Part 2-B) and Area 2 (Part 1-A).  Area 2 failed to pass; Area 1 was tied 35-35.  In HB 1128, you will find the following language:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Whatever Happened With the . . .

Clarkston Annexation?

Clarkston had considered annexing several areas surrounding the City, and ultimately chose to formally pursue annexation of two specific districts, one to the west, crossing over to the far side of I-285, and a larger one to the northeast. The grand annexation plans were covered in this article, The Optimistic Cartographer. The vote for annexation was held in the May 20 primary, and ultimately failed, as explained in The Voters Say No to Clarkston.

Or did it?

Each area voted in separately considered votes, meaning either area could be approved by the voters without the other. In the vote, the area to the west was voted down by the overwhelming vote of 9 No to 5 Yes. The vote in the area to the northeast, around Brockett Road, was tied at 35-35. Under Georgia election laws, for the referendum to be approved, a 50% plus 1 vote is required. A tie represents a No decision, and the referendum fails.

Or does it?

After the election, Clarkston announced that there would be a runoff election to reconsider the vote on annexation in the Brockett Road area, in approximately 4 weeks. But no second vote was held in that time frame. Although surprised a runoff was even being considered, I thought it odd that they wouldn't wait for the already scheduled July 22 runoff date, particularly since the annexation was not scheduled to actually take place until the end of the year.The first supposed date for the runoff came and went without a sound. Presumably, the re-vote WAS scheduled for the July 22 runoff date.

Or was it?

There was no other notice or other activity in Clarkston, on its webpage or on the local FaceBook pages regarding a re-vote on annexation. No campaigning, no yard signs, no rallies. A quick check on election day at the Jolly Elementary precinct confirmed that no vote on annexation was scheduled that day. It's a mystery.

Or is it?

Inquiries at the Clarkston City Hall revealed some, if not all, of the truth. Although the exact sequence of events remains unknown, apparently the DeKalb County Elections Board refused to schedule the runoff vote for annexation as was requested by Clarkston. We can only presume this was due to the 50% plus 1 requirement for voter approval. As far as the Election Board was concerned, the referendum lost, and did not qualify for a revote. A recount maybe (with only 70 votes, we already know they tried that), but not a revote. Case closed.

But wait. There's more.

The DeKalb County Sheriff Runoff Vote

Maps detailing how the runoff vote for Sheriff played out in DeKalb County.

The incumbent Sheriff Jeff Mann was running against the ex-CEO of DeKalb County Vernon Jones. The runoff was held July 22, 2014.

In the runoff vote, Sheriff Jeff Mann defeated Vernon Jones - 40,537 to 12,553 (76.36% to 23.64%). The 53,090 voters represented 13.61% of the 389,998 registered voters in DeKalb County.

A map of DeKalb County illustrating how each precinct voted.

A map of DeKalb County illustrating the percentage of registered voters who participated in the runoff election. Kudos go out to Smoke Rise and Avondale Estates!

A spreadsheet of the vote totals by precinct can be found after the break.