DeKalb’s Scare Tactics Won’t Work

I received the following email from my friend and State Rep. Mike Jacobs. Mike can sometimes be a controversial figure, but I believe that this is because Mike staunchly supports the interests of his constituents rather than the prevailing political opinions throughout the state.

It’s a shame that some of our elected officials use scare tactics in an effort to win us over to their position.

Such is the case with the recent declaration by DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones and his administration regarding the impact a new City of Dunwoody would have on the rest of unincorporated DeKalb County. They claim DeKalb County will lose $15 million in tax revenue if Dunwoody becomes a city. They also claim the loss of tax revenue will force the county to raise the millage rate by approximately one mill, thus raising property taxes, on residents of unincorporated DeKalb.

Color me skeptical. The more likely scenario is that the specter of a property tax increase is being used to scare residents of unincorporated DeKalb into opposing the incorporation of Dunwoody. It’s also probable that the CEO wants to use Dunwoody’s cityhood as an excuse to raise your property taxes, even if such an increase is unnecessary.

When it comes to Dunwoody’s push for cityhood, I don’t have a dog in the fight. However, as a matter of principle, I support the right of local residents to choose the local government that best suits them. My legislative district includes North Brookhaven, Brookhaven, and Toco Hills, all of which, at least for the time being, is unincorporated. Thus, any scare tactics directed at residents of unincorporated DeKalb greatly concern my constituents and me.

I invite the CEO and his administration to prove their claim. Tell us specifically what revenues will be lost and who would have paid these revenues.

But that information doesn’t give us the whole story. You can’t know the net amount of any loss without knowing how much money will be saved and what other sources of revenue will be generated. Thus, it’s important to know how much DeKalb County will save when it no longer has to provide services such as law enforcement, roads and drainage in Dunwoody, and it’s important to know what amounts DeKalb plans to charge when it provides services such as fire and 911 in the City of Dunwoody.

Give us the whole story, including line-by-line estimates of the specific losses DeKalb County would incur and gains DeKalb would receive if Dunwoody incorporates. The City of Dunwoody is not a new issue. It has been on the table for more than a year, which means the CEO has had more than a year to gather this information.

Without full information, we can only assume that Dunwoody will be used as another excuse to raise the tax burden to finance DeKalb’s insatiable appetite for new spending. The DeKalb County budget has grown from $396 million in 2000 to a proposed $625 million in 2007, which far outpaces the rate of DeKalb’s population growth during that same period. In fact, this week the CEO announced that he is increasing the amount of spending in his 2007 proposed budget by (surprise!) $15 million.

Keep in mind that even if Dunwoody becomes a city, the HOST sales tax collected in Dunwoody will continue to be used to reduce property taxes countywide. It appears there is no need for a tax increase, whether or not Dunwoody incorporates.

Stop with the scare tactics. Give us the facts.

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