Decatur City & Schools To Hold Annexation Work Session Next Tuesday

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Decatur City Manager Peggy Merriss sent around an announcement this week stating that the City Commission and School Board would hold a joint work session this coming Tuesday June 7th at 7p to discuss “annexation policy”. That’s all we know at this point.

But back in February, after the GA legislature failed to pass the city’s annexation bill, the city and schools stated in a joint statement

It is anticipated that the City Commission and the Board of Education will revisit annexation later in 2016 to determine what options should be pursued in the future.

So there you go.

Decatur To Push For Senior Tax Relief This Legislative Session; Promises To Revisit Annexation Later This Year

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The City of Decatur sent out this note to press – and me! – this morning…

The City of Decatur’s primary interest during the 2016 Georgia General Assembly session is to support the passage of homestead exemption legislation amending and creating tax relief for our resident homeowners, particularly for seniors.  Mayor Patti Garrett said, “Property tax relief for long-time residents who have been a part of our community for many years is our top priority, and we are focused on getting homestead exemption legislation passed this session.”

School Board Chair Annie Caiola said, “Over the past decade there have been significant austerity cuts to the State’s education budget, meaning that local residents have had to pay more and more property taxes in order to maintain the strength of our school system.  The increasing property taxes are forcing too many seniors out of our community, and it needs to stop.  The City Schools of Decatur School Board strongly supports legislation that will exempt our seniors from ad valorem school taxes.”

Proposed homestead exemption legislation would authorize referendums in November, 2016 and, if approved by the voters, would be effective in 2017.

In the 2015 General Assembly HB 663 was adopted by the Georgia House of Representatives that authorized a referendum to annex areas to the east of the existing city limits of Decatur.  “We have new City leadership, a new School Superintendent and new Board of Education leadership,” said Mayor Garrett, “and we need to look at a variety of issues, including annexation, so we will not be pursuing adoption of HB 663 by the Georgia Senate during the 2016 session.”

It is anticipated that the City Commission and the Board of Education will revisit annexation later in 2016 to determine what options should be pursued in the future.

Photos courtesy of City of Decatur and CSD

Mayor Jim Baskett Releases Statement on Fate of Decatur Legislation

JimBaskettThe City just released this statement from Mayor Jim Baskett regarding Decatur’s legislative efforts this session.

The City of Decatur is appreciative of the efforts of Representative Karla Drenner and State Senator Elena Parent to move forward with part of the overall Decatur Annexation Master Plan.  Regretfully, HB 663 was not successful during the 2015 legislative session.  It is our understanding that opposition from neighborhoods in the City of Atlanta annexation plan and concerns about potential lost revenue to the DeKalb County School System resulted in the bill not receiving consideration in the Georgia Senate. During the remainder of 2015, the Decatur City Commission will assess how, or if, we want to move forward on annexation issues in 2016.

In addition, the Decatur City Commission had also supported legislation to increase homestead exemptions for City of Decatur taxes.  We are highly disappointed that property tax relief for our taxpayers, particularly for low and moderate income seniors was defeated in the Georgia House of Representatives. Adoption of the proposed legislation would have made a real difference in the lives of our seniors by providing over $1,100 of annual tax savings.  The Decatur City Commission will try again in 2016 to secure reconsideration of the legislation by the General Assembly.

Decatur Annexation Bill Dies in Senate; Avondale Bill Lives On

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The AJC reports that Decatur’s partial annexation bill “fell apart” today after it didn’t get the required four signatures from state Senators to move forward.

The AJC also reports what we already know – that the predominant issue at hand was the commercial property – and thus tax revenue – being diverted from DeKalb County to Decatur and the various neighborhood groups that opposed the commercial-dominated effort.

“Other senators felt there was too much controversy with Decatur and too little time to work it out,” [Sen. Elena] Parent said. “I’m not saying it’s impossible to get this done, but we’re going to wait and see how things develop over the next year.”

Meanwhile the Avondale bill did get the required signatures and will be voted on by the full Senate on Thursday.  However, again there’s opposition due to the transfer of – say it with me – commercial areas from DeKalb to the city.

UPDATED: Decatur Annexation Legislation Area is 66% Commercial

UPDATE: We’ve received more details from the City Manager.  This is must read for all you annexation junkies…

  • The area in the proposed legislation is valued in DeKalb County tax records at approximately $396,347,000.  Of that value, $111,711,000 (28%) is residential; $262,278,000 (66%) is commercial and $22,358,000 (6%) is exempt.
  • This is consistent with the City’s annexation objectives and will provide sufficient property tax revenue to the City of Decatur ($4.9mm) to cover our costs and provide property tax revenue ($7.6mm) to the City Schools of Decatur that will exceed their costs.
  • The proposed legislation incorporates 70% of the real property value included in the City’s overall annexation master plan, with an area that is 2/3’s commercial property. The inclusion of Decatur Terrace adds 4% to the overall plan.
  • Annexation is a long-term investment in the future of the City and the City Schools.

The legislative process is not perfect and requires negotiation, compromise and cooperation.  The members of the Georgia House of Representative who represent Decatur have various parts of the master plan in their districts, with Rep. Drenner having the very significant share so her sponsorship of a bill for the legislative areas she represents is a major part of the over all plan. None of the proposed annexation master plan areas are located in Rep. Oliver’s district.  All four legislators co-signed Rep. Drenner’s bill.

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Decatur City Manager Peggy Merriss followed up with us regarding the commercial and residential breakdown of the proposed annexation area presented by Rep. Karla Drenner to the Georgia Legislature on Monday, which includes pieces of Annexation Areas B and C from the Master Plan and the addition of residential neighborhood of Decatur Terrace.  Here it is —

  • 66% Commercial
  • 28% Residential
  • 6% Exempt

We don’t have data that breaks out the impact on the school system, but as a general rule commercial areas benefit the school system because they pay into it without contributing any students.

Decatur’s current residential/commercial ratio is 85% residential/15% commercial.

Mayor Jim Baskett Comments on Decatur Annexation Legislation

After we learned a few more details yesterday of the partial Decatur annexation legislation submitted by Georgia State Rep. Karla Drenner on Monday, we followed up for reaction from the Decatur City Commission to get their thoughts on the partial annexation and the new inclusion of the neighboring residential neighborhood of Decatur Terrace.

Decatur Mayor Jim Baskett responded this morning…

A lot is happening with our legislative agenda, and decisions are being made very quickly.
We did not have the option of moving forward with our overall map and plan.
The map that is before the legislature now has a great deal of commercial and is a large part of what we set out to annex.
Going forward we will see where we are at the end of this legislative session and determine how we will move forward with the rest of the plan. An updated annexation master plan report will be available after the session is over.

Commissioner Patti Garrett echoed the Mayor’s statements and emphasized that “we were unable to move forward with our original map but still have a significant amount of commercial property included and Representative Drenner requested the addition of Decatur Terrace.”  She added “I think we have all been made keenly aware that the legislative process for getting annexation considered is a complicated and complex process.”

I’m going to see if its possible to get a commercial/residential breakdown of the current partial annexation area.  Stay tuned.

Decatur Terrace Neighborhood Added To Decatur Annexation Bill

Decatur City Manager Peggy Merriss has confirmed that Rep. Karla Drenner has included Decatur Terrace, a neighborhood of 147 residential parcels south of East College Avenue on Decatur’s eastern border, in her Decatur annexation bill that she introduced to the legislature on Monday.

Decatur Terrace petitioned the City of Decatur back in October 2014 for inclusion in its annexation plan, but wasn’t ultimately included in the city’s Annexation Master Plan.

The partial Decatur annexation bill only includes the annexation of parcels within Rep. Drenner’s district.

That said, all of this may be for naught.  Rep. Drenner told Decaturish the other day that she has doubts whether any of the annexation bills will pass the Legislature this year.