Monthly Archives: December 2015

DeKalb's Challenges Ahead for 2016

Nancy Jester outlines DeKalb’s challenges ahead for 2016. Below is an excerpt from the article published in this week’s Crier.

Commissioner Nancy Jester

Jester outlines DeKalb challenges ahead for 2016
By: Nancy Jester

As the New Year approaches, I’d like to share my thoughts about what DeKalb County issues you should watch for in 2016.
The budget for 2016 must be reviewed, finalized, and approved by the Board of Commissioners by March 1st. The proposed budget included no change in the millage rate for unincorporated DeKalb.
For those citizens living in cities, your county rate is lower than the unincorporated areas and is dependent on which services your city receives from the county. The good news is that most cities should see an overall decrease …
I continue to believe that the county is overstaffed and inefficiently managed. So despite some positive news for the incorporated areas of DeKalb, the budget is not aligned with the leaner more efficient service delivery strategy that I favor…
I am particularly concerned with an effort in the General Assembly to increase the taxes of newly formed cities via House Bill 711. The legislation would create a new special tax district for unfunded pension liabilities of DeKalb County…
We’ll need to keep an eye out on the proposal for the e-SPLOST V. The school district has shown a stunning lack of planning capabilities over the last 20 years of e-SPLOST. Trailers and poor conditions have proliferated in some areas while new schools were built where enrollment severely declined. The details of the proposal will determine whether it is worthy of support.
As always, DeKalb is in need of economic development outside of the perimeter area. The county and school district must demonstrate that they are capable partners by improving the business climate and academic achievement levels in DeKalb. These improvements must be coupled with a dedication to rooting out corruption and unethical behavior and practices that have plagued DeKalb for too long. Only when DeKalb is seen as a successful, ethical government and school system will real progress take hold.
Most importantly, I wish you and your families a healthy, safe, and prosperous New Year.
Continue Reading at The Crier >>

Public Meetings to Present Redistricting Options to Address Cross Keys Overcrowding
Revised 12/22/2015
DeKalb County School District will be holding three (3) public meetings to present redistricting options to address overcrowding in the Cross Keys Cluster. The community will have an opportunity to voice their comments on the proposed options at these meetings. The affected schools include Montgomery ES, Huntley Hills ES, Ashford Park ES, Cary Reynolds ES, Dresden ES, Montclair ES, Woodward ES, Briar Vista ES, Fernbank ES, Laurel Ridge ES, McLendon ES, Avondale ES, Chamblee MS, Chamblee HS, Sequoyah MS, Cross Keys HS, Druid Hills MS, Druid Hills HS, Warren Tech, Oakcliff Theme. Final recommendations on redistricting will be presented for approval at the March 2016 Board Meeting.
Meetings will be held:

  1. Thursday, January 14th 2016, 6:00 pm at Sequoyah Middle School – 3456 Aztec Road Doraville, GA 30340
  2. Tuesday, January 19th 2016, 6:00 pm at Druid Hills High School – 1798 Haygood Drive NE, Atlanta, GA 30307
  3. Thursday, February 11th 2016, 6:00 pm at Cross Keys High School – 1626 N. Druid Hills Road NE Atlanta, GA 30319

House Bill 711
House Bill 711 will provide for the retirement of certain pension obligations; to provide for definitions; to provide for the creation of special districts under certain circumstances for a limited period of time; to provide for procedures, conditions, and limitations; to provide for certain taxation in connection with the retirement of such obligations; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.

The proposed fifth Educational Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (E-SPLOST V) will be a continuation of the one percent sales tax currently paid on the sale of good and services sold in DeKalb County. A joint resolution will be developed between the DeKalb County School District, the Atlanta Public Schools and the City Schools of Decatur for the approval of a project list to be presented to the voters via formal referendum in November May of 2016 [Note: data was recently changed on DCSD website]. If approved by the voters of DeKalb County, E-SPLOST V sales tax collections would commence on July 1, 2017 and sunset on June 30, 2022.

Doraville Tax Allocation District

While the School District is not a Fan of the TAD, the Doraville City Council and the DeKalb County Commissioners passed the TAD unanimously. There seems to be a lot of confusion about what a TAD is and how it works. DeKalb County Commissioner Nancy Jester addresses some of the confusion.
  DeKalb Schools – Not a Fan of the TAD
.pdf link icon   Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with Doraville and DeKalb County
.pdf link icon  Doraville TAD Bleakly Report (outlines the rationale, boundaries, fiscal data and potential projects for the TAD)

Commissioner Nancy Jester

Doraville Tax Allocation District
By: Nancy Jester, DeKalb County Commissioner

December 18, 2015 – At this Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners’ meeting, the Board approved an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with Doraville regarding the Tax Allocation District (TAD) for the former GM Plant site. The Commission approved the TAD earlier this year. The IGA sets forth how the TAD will function and sets out the infrastructure improvements that can be financed by TAD revenues.
So, what is a TAD? How does it work?
A TAD is a defined area where real estate property tax monies gathered above a certain threshold for a certain, finite period of time, can be used for specified improvements in the defined area.The property taxes collected by all governmental entities (city, county, and/or school district) that participate in the TAD continue to be paid to those entities. The TAD does not decrease or abate taxation on this property. As improvements are made and development occurs on the property, its value will increase. The tax that is paid on the increase in the value, gets paid, and accrues into the TAD account. Those funds can only be utilized pursuant to the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) that designates the projects for which TAD funds can be used.
Let me be clear: Every dime of property taxes for this property must be paid. The TAD does not change that. The taxes that are paid today on that property will continue to be paid directly to the city, county, and school district. The taxes assessed on the increase in value of the property, also have to be paid. They go directly to the TAD for specific, pre-approved, directed uses.
The IGA that the Commission approved on Tuesday has numerous stipulations about TAD expenditures. They include a new fire station, water/sewer infrastructure, streets, and storm water management structures. The TAD is set for a period of 25 years but DeKalb has built in a review and reauthorization provision at the 10 year mark.
I want to contrast the TAD and this process with the powers of Development Authorities. Development Authorities routinely discount or abate property taxes all together for a period of time through bond-lease transactions. When Development Authorities do this, the private, business interest sees their taxes reduced or eliminated. The decision is made by an appointed board; not your elected officials. Development Authorities have the power to abate taxes for cities, counties, and the school district without approval from these entities. This just recently happened in Brookhaven when the DeKalb Development Authority (known as Decide DeKalb) entered into a deal to build a new office building at Perimeter Summit. Click here to read about it. The soccer deal was structured with the Development Authority as a tax abatement deal and a cash give away. A TAD is none of these things.
With the TAD, every dime in taxes gets paid, and your elected officials have to approve of the TAD and its expenditures. Development Authority deals mean unelected officials get to eliminate taxes for private interests.
The General Motors property has languished for the better part of a decade. There have been a few attempts to redevelop it over the years but the deals have never come to fruition. Even though General Motors went through bankruptcy reorganization, the Doraville Plant was not liquidated. The plant closed and has been sitting there for over 7 years. The site has such infrastructure deficits and GM demanded such a premium price that any development would need some form of public participation.
The business community and investors have expressed their concerns about DeKalb’s business climate. The GM site redevelopment is one of the largest projects in the Southeast. Successfully redeveloping this area will improve DeKalb’s reputation, bring thousands of jobs to the area, and improve land value; resulting in a larger commercial tax base for everyone.
I have been disappointed to hear some of the comments from the school system about this project. Perhaps more than any other governmental entity, DeKalb School District, contributed to the distress and blight in Doraville. For years, the school district ignored the burgeoning student population and now the schools in and near Doraville have proliferated with trailers. The district as a whole is a negative when businesses are considering where to locate in metro Atlanta. It is ironic that the school district does not appear willing to participate in a revitalization given its history of willfully ignoring the area.
TAD participation by the school district would lead to higher collections of e-SPLOST sales taxes. The district could negotiate for the building of an auditorium large enough to hold graduations with their portion of the TAD. Right now, no such space exists in DeKalb.
I also find it ironic that DeKalb schools would hinge their disdain for this project on their view that “teaching and learning” is their “core business”. A quick glance of the school district’s budgets over the years would show you that DeKalb has failed to ever meet the state’s mandate of spending 65% (at a minimum) of the their budget in the classroom (on “direct instructional expenditures”). I suggest that to be credible in making a statement about the core business of DeKalb County schools, start first by using the taxpayers’ money for what it is intended. Keep in mind that DeKalb has one of the highest millage rates for schools in the state at 23.73 mils. Almost all other districts are capped and can go no higher than 20 mils. Even with almost 4 mils more in taxes, DeKalb School District can’t get 65% of the budget to be spent on their “core business. The old adage – “You get what you pay for” – shows us that more money into the school’s coffers have purchased something far different than “teaching and learning”.
In the School District’s critique of this TAD, they mentioned the Kensington and Briarcliff TADs and noted that their value has decreased. Indeed the value has decreased and so the TAD has seen no accumulation of funds and so there have been no infrastructure improvements or redevelopment. The cost to the taxpayer has been zero. And all the while, every tax dollar has been paid because TADs do not eliminate taxes and money only accumulates in a TAD when the value goes up.
The old GM site represents a unique opportunity for DeKalb. Unfortunately, this property wasn’t liquidated when taxpayers footed the bill for General Motors to reorganize. We were left with a property that GM held without compromising on price. Now, we have the opportunity to redevelop this site to benefit all of DeKalb, increase the commercial tax base, provide jobs, and show that DeKalb wants to be a business friendly place. We have the opportunity to make sure the necessary infrastructure and school facilities get put in place. We have the opportunity to show that DeKalb is open for business. We can take the opportunity, mitigate risk to the public, and improve value for all the taxpayers. Let’s do this and show that DeKalb is united and a great place to do business.