UPDATED: Decatur Special Meeting To Approve School Bond Being Rescheduled

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UPDATE 1/26 -9:52a: I received this message from City Manager Merriss this morning…

The called meeting for the City of Decatur Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) scheduled for 3:45pm today and the called City Commission Meeting scheduled for 4:00pm today have been cancelled and will be rescheduled.

The City Commission Meeting was called for the purpose of approving the issuance of General Obligation Bonds for school purposes but the bond bid will be rescheduled to allow additional time for the City of Decatur and the City Schools of Decatur to complete some due diligence items.

The URA Meeting was scheduled because the City Commission was already going to be at City Hall but that is no longer the case and it will be rescheduled to a more appropriate time.

UPDATE 1/26:  I followed up with the City Manager and asked about the special timing of the meeting.  She replied that the bonds are actually being bid this morning and the city commission needs to approve their issuance.  Since the State of the City is at 5:15p, they are trying to get in the vote before that.

City Manager Peggy Merriss has announced that the Decatur City Commission will hold a special meeting tomorrow at 4pm to vote on approving the issuance of $75 million in General Obligation Bonds for the City Schools of Decatur that a majority of voters cast “Yes” votes for in last November’s election.

The agenda for the afternoon meeting shows that there will be time for public comment prior to the vote.

As many of you are aware, CSD asked the general public for the bonds to expand its infrastructure to accommodate growing enrollment.  More than 3 in 4 Decatur residents voted in favor of the bond.

City Manager Merriss also noted that the Urban Redevelopment Authority will meet at 3:45p tomorrow to elect new officers and confirming new members.

Graphic courtesy of CSD

Get a Sneak Peek at the Decatur Ballot For Tomorrow’s Election

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Chris sends along the ballot that’s up at City Hall for Decatur’s local election tomorrow.

All your favorite candidates are on the list, along with CSD’s $75 million G.O. Bond, and a vote on the DeKalb County Board of Ethics Referendum.

We’ll get to the G.O. Bond in a sec, but were you aware of the Board of Ethics vote?  Well, apparently many folks aren’t.  DeKalb Commissioner Kathie Gannon sent a note around last week mentioning that she’s been hearing that many folks are unaware of the Ethics Referendum vote and urged approval.

The ballot reads “Shall the Act be approved which revises the Board of Ethics for DeKalb County?”  What the heck does that mean?

According to Commissioner Gannon, the new legislation will:

  • Create an independent Board of Ethics. No longer will the Board of Ethics be appointed by the CEO and Board of Commissioners.

  • In addition to elected officials, all County employees, appointed officials and contractors must comply with the ethics standards.

  • The Ethics Board will hire an Ethics Officer to make certain all County officials and employees are aware of the standards. This ethics officer will monitor a hotline and report alleged ethical violations to the Board of Ethics.

  • The Board of Ethics has the power to fine, refer for prosecution and reprimand.

Now it’s on the Decatur Schools’ G.O. Bond.  You’ve had months, if not years, to consider it.  Now it’s time to cast your vote.  Take our unofficial, informal, unscientific poll!

If you’ve waited to the last possible moment to learn about the Decatur school system’s $75 million ask, you can check out CSD’s informational pamphlet HERE.  There’s also a pro-G.O. Bond website put together by local residents with info HERE.

Decatur City Commission Puts School Bond Referendum on November Ballot

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No big surprise here.  The Decatur City Commission unanimously voted last night to put the School Board’s request for a $75 million Go Bond on the November ballot.

For the past couple months, Mayor Baskett has been quoted in recent months saying that he believes the bond should be put before voters to decide whether it should be approved.

At last night’s meeting, he mentioned that in many Atlanta area local governments, the school board wouldn’t need to get approval from the commission to get a bond on the ballot. However, the Mayor noted that Decatur’s set up allows for everyone who is affected by this vote to discuss the issue beforehand, “instead of just taking place in the school community”.

He mentioned that he believed there had been a lot of discussion in the community and between the Commission and School Board over the past two years on the issue – at retreats and joint work sessions – and ultimately the Commission concluded that this was “a matter for the people of Decatur to decide”.  Commissioner Drake reiterated many of these points in his own comments.

After a few minutes of comment, the commission voted unanimously.

So now it’s in your collective hands.  How will you vote?  Cue informal poll…

Decatur Commission Set To Vote On $75M School Bond Referendum Tonight

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After many months of community discussion, the Decatur City Commission will take up the School Board’s request tonight to place the request for a $75 million GO bond on the November 3rd ballot to build more schools to accommodate growing student enrollment.

Decatur School Board Chair, Garrett Goebel, submitted this formal request to Mayor Jim Baskett…

Dear Mayor Baskett:

Please accept this formal letter asking that you place the request of a 75 million dollar bond on the November ballot. The School Board has reviewed a myriad of information over a period of 20 months. We have come to the understanding and decision that in order to meet the growing student population projections; we must ask the voters for their approval of a General Obligation Bond.

We are comfortable that we have provided you with the information necessary. We are also pleased that various results indicate that 90% of the survey respondents recognize and are aware of the needs of the school system.

The Superintendent has been working with our financial advisor, Dianne McNabb, and the Bond Attorney, Terri Fin nester. Attached to this letter you will find the appropriate documentation.

The Board is asking that the Commission take up this action on June 1, 2015.

Thank you for your assistance with this matter.

Meeting starts at 7:30p this evening.  You can tune in for the live broadcast HERE or check it out on Comcast channel 25.

Decatur Millage Rate May Drop 2 Points Due to Big Tax Digest Increase

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The AJC posted a blurb Friday afternoon that noted that due to a 19% increase in the city’s tax digest this year, Decatur Schools would likely drop the millage rate by a full point next year.

Using this calculation, it looks like a full point millage drop would result in roughly a $240/year savings for a Decatur home valued at $500,000.

Additionally, on the agenda for tonight’s City Commission meeting, Asst. City Manager Andrea Arnold is recommending that the city drop its total millage rate by a point due to a sizable 20% increase in the digest.  Ms. Arnold states that 15% of the increase is due to re-evaluations by the county and that 5% is due to new construction.

Ms. Arnold estimates the savings at $240/year for a $500,000 Decatur property.

So ultimately, the millage would lower Decatur taxes by roughly $500/year for a $500,000 property.

All of this millage news obviously comes in front of the backdrop that CSD has requested that the City Commission put a $75 million bond in front of Decatur voters this November.  That bond has been estimated to raise taxes on a $500,000 property by $680/year.

Ms. Arnold states that the city will hold the state mandated public hearings surrounding the big millage decrease, in addition to another community budget gathering in the coming weeks.

City Commission and School Board To Hold Work Session Next Monday To Discuss $75M Bond

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The AJC notes that the city and CSD will host a joint work session at City Hall at 6pm on Monday, April 27th…

“with the board presenting its case for putting a $75 million general obligation bond on the November ballot. The commission, however, won’t vote on the bond until May at the earliest. After the joint session, the board returns to Central Office for an executive session (not open to the public) that may end with an announcement of a search firm.”

The blurb also notes that the School Board will be interviewing “one or more search firms” during a work session on Friday morning in an “an early step in a nationwide search for replacing Superintendent Phyllis Edwards”.

Decatur School Board to Ask for $75 Million Bond

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The AJC reports that Superintendent Phyllis Edwards convinced the Decatur School Board at Tuesday’s meeting to support a $75 million General Obligation Bond, vs. the $82 million bond that was previously requested.  The blurb continues…

“Whatever you ask for it’s still not going to meet our needs,” she said. “But I think the $75 million is easier to pass because it’s more reasonable.”

With $75 million, the annual tax increase on those owning an $150,000 home would be approximately $204, on a $300,000 home, $408, on a $500,000 home, $680 and on a $700,000 home $953.

Over on Open City Hall, of the 402 current “On Forum” responses, 70% of respondents said they would approve a $75 million bond.  However, it should also be noted that 78% of respondents have children currently in the school system, which is a considerably larger percentage than the total Decatur voting population.

Chart courtesy of Open City Hall