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Annexation Would Add 2,000 New Residents

For the next few months, the Decatur City Commission will be taking the public pulse and deciding whether to proceed with annexation

The Decatur City Commission got a quick lesson Monday night on the numerical implications and increasing the population by about 2,000 people.

If the commission moves ahead, a referendum could be held Nov. 5, 2013.

City Manager Peggy Merriss's detailed power point presentation has now been posted on the city website. Here are the highlights of what annexation would mean:

  • Added population: 2,028 (2010 census was 19,237 for the current city).
  • Added number of students in the City Schools of Decatur: 230 to start with, 400-430 in eight-10 years (Current student population is 3,627).
  • Added property tax for city government: About $1 million yearly, without exemptions.
  • Added property tax for city schools: About $1.7 million yearly, without exemptions.
  • Total added value: $175,879,561 billion (About $62.8 billion in land, $113.1 billion in buildings.)
  • Added costs for city government and the school system: Not determined.

include the northwest quadrant, around the shopping center anchored by Publix; Suburban Plaza; neighborhoods behind DeKalb Medical; the Derrytown neighborhood on the east side of town; the United Methodist Children's Home; and the southwest corner of the city. (See map attached to this story.)

Now the city commission must decide if it wants to proceed with the annexation. The commission indicated it wanted to communicate with people who live in the affected areas, but no specific method of doing so was offered.

Five years ago ciy leaders considered annexing property but backed off because of the effect it would have had on the school system.

The student population is growing and has gone up about 12 percent each of the last two years.

Merriss proposed this tenative timetable for the process.

  • Now through November: Information meetings with residents and people who live in areas that might be annexed.
  • Dec. 3, 2012. Final information session and public hearing.
  • Dec. 17, 2012. Commission votes on annexation resolution.
  • January-April, 2013. General Assembly considers local legislation authorizing an annexation referendum.
  • Nov. 5, 2013. Annexation referendum.
  • Dec. 15, 2013. If approved, annexation becomes effective.
  • June 1, 2014. First installation of tax bills for annexed areas.
  • Aug. 2014. School year starts with students from the annexed areas.

Still to be determined: Will the city accept petitions from other neighborhoods that want to be annexed into Decatur?

Do you think Decatur should move ahead with annexation? Tell us in the comment box.

Michael_W August 21, 2012 at 01:53 PM
The Decatur student population is now 19%, and with the proposed annexation that number drops to 18%. That is, the annexations bring in more taxpayers than students compared to the current Decatur population. This move seems like a win for the schools.
CJM August 21, 2012 at 02:01 PM
AES is correct. CSD is notoriously conservative (I'm being polite) when projecting enrollment increases. Expect more than 230--much more. I say NO to annexation. The schools are already bursting at the seams.
Karla August 21, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Please educate me - why would I want to be annexed? What are the advantages? Would they offset the increase in property taxes?
Judd August 21, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Michael: According to the City Manager, the number in Decatur was 22.5% in 2010, and the student population has grown by 12% for two consecutive years so it's surely higher now. CSD will need to anticipate that the % in the annexed areas will over time match that in the city, which is why the City Manager's report anticipated between 400-430. For comparison, Clairemont has about 350 students, Glennwood 240, 5th Ave 550. So at least another school's worth of students, whether that means an actual new school or the equivalent added classrooms to be built with accompanying capital expense and overhead. CSD has already formed a committee to look at these numbers.
Judd August 21, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Also, and I don't mean to get to wonky on you, since CSD enrollment has grown by 52% over the last six years (believer it or not!), the % of students in the population is an ever moving target -- currently moving only up. So 22.5% is definitely too low a number to use. Moreover, as families with students moved in to one of these areas, many of them would likely replace households of one or two. Households of two become households of four or five, so the TOTAL population would increase. And the % of students would need to be taken from a higher number than the current population. So the number of students anticipated on the high end, over time, will need to be more than 400-430.
Tomi August 21, 2012 at 03:47 PM
What if I don't want my property annexed? I am retired and do not want to pay the extra taxes. Property owners should be given the option of being annexed or not. Property owners in the areas to be annexed should be allowed a vote.
Ralph Ellis August 21, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Tomi -- Who is you city commissioner? You should call them or send a letter or email to let them know your feelings.
Mike Easterwood August 21, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Tomi and Karla. You do get to vote. It is commercial property owners that are precluded from voting. My advice is to weigh the pro's and con's and make sure to vote YOUR interests. Keep in mind Decatur assesses at 50% of market value rather than 40% in unincorporated areas. Also, keep in mind the the City maintains police, fire and a school system that must be funded. Sometimes the price of these services is worth it, sometimes not. That is what anyone faced with annexation should consider and be allowed to VOTE!
Diane Loupe August 21, 2012 at 04:23 PM
The cost to educate a student is not carried exclusively by Decatur taxpayers, as the state kicks in some money. Also, more students might bring economies of scale...another student in a classroom with a capacity for, say, 26, but which now only has 24 students, would not really "cost" more, as no other costs would be incurred. Advantages for annexees? Being part of a terrific school system makes your property values skyrocket, great police and fire department (which may reduce your insurance rates, I'm not sure.) Retiree--if you're old enough, you can apply for an exemption to school property taxes. However, remember that the students who you object to paying to educate are the same ones who are going to fund your social security.
Steve August 21, 2012 at 05:03 PM
You get much faster public safety response times, a lower fire insurance rate, a responsive government and more stable property values.
AES August 21, 2012 at 05:12 PM
Diane, educate me if I am wrong, but I was under the impression that the cost per student to decatur is approximately the same as the tuition cost per child for non residents, which is somewhere around $6K. The total cost per child is almost double that, somewhere around $11K per child, which a big chunk comes from the state and maybe fed, dunno. but I was only considering the cost per child to decatur. And, tuition spots have filled (maybe overfilled) every available bit of classroom capacity you speak of. Not sure how you can make a case for that this year.
Judd August 21, 2012 at 05:41 PM
AES: Decatur's share has been more in the range of $8-9K/pupil over the last few years, not including capital expenses. But you're right that tuition students are used to fill in the sort of gaps that Diane mentioned. This year, I think the number of tuition students is in the 30s -- certainly not in the hundreds -- and none at all this year in K-3.
Diane Loupe August 21, 2012 at 06:19 PM
AES and Judd, I stand corrected. I thought the $6,000 was the overall cost, not just the city of Decatur cost. And, you're right about tuition students filling in some of that, and that the system is accpeting fewer tuition students. (BTW, children of teachers get to attend at no cost, courtesy tuition.) But I think economies of scale still apply, because Decatur schools are quite small. If we add classrooms, we may have to hire a teacher and pay for a classroom, but we don't have to hire a new principal, make a new lunchroom, hire another bus..etc, hire another superintendent, another janitor, etc. I'm not an economist, but it seems like the more students we have, the lower our cost per pupil would be because of these economies of scale. Plus, we've got an entire school -- Westchester -- now being used as administrative offices, that will be converted back to a school in a few years, which will help with some of the crowding previously mentioned.
Steve August 21, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Tuition students are not used to overfill classrooms. The number of tuition students accepted is closely controlled so as to not overburden the system, hence the fact that there are none in lower grades this year.
AES August 21, 2012 at 07:45 PM
My point is that we need to look at the math really, really closely here. I am not complaining about tuition students (we were a tuition family until we moved into the city.) Neither am I totally opposed to expanding the city. Just trying to raise some concerns. The money has to make sense or we run the risk of having a negative impact on our school system, which I believe is the biggest one thing that contributes to making Decatur such an attractive community. Whether it costs 6 or 8K per student (maybe 6K is a good number to use if you figure some economy of scale), if we are bringing in less than that, we will have to make it up somewhere else by raising taxes or reducing the quality. We should also recognize that the number of students in the census data is low and will in most likelihood jump considerably in the months after the school zones change as people buy or rent in those newly annexed areas to be a part of the schools. The exemptions on the properties also need to be taken into account. What is the net amount of school tax if the current exemptions were used to calculate it? Why is that figure not available? Let's be careful here and get as much accurate information as possible before we justify this based on bad data.
Bill Bosworth August 22, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Personally, I do not support he annexation of the Methodist Children's Home. It does not fit any of the objectives listed and will cost the city a huge amount.
Michael_W August 23, 2012 at 12:56 AM
Hi Judd -- I'm not following how you got the 22.5%. I based my calculation on a student population of 3,627 and a total population of 19,237, both from the original post above. Slide #13 also includes this number, with "CSoD Enrollment 8/9/2012" next to it. It also has a 22.56% next to the under-18 population of 4,340, which I assume includes non-school-age children and those in private schools. Is that where you got the 22.5%? I'm not trying to be pedantic about this, I just want to make sure we are comparing the right numbers. I was not at the meeting on Monday, so I could be missing something from that presentation. From what I've seen, the percentage of students will actually decrease if the annexation happens. They could increase in the future, however we don't really know. For example, I would like to know how the 400-430 in eight to ten years number was found.
Ms. August 23, 2012 at 10:49 AM
Would reconfiguring the schools make sense at this point? If so, just get on with it.
Judd August 23, 2012 at 12:09 PM
Michael, you're right on the 19%. My bad. The 22.5% I was remembering is the population under 18 in Decatur (as of 2010), of which 84% are in CSD, which comes to 19%. The City Manager got to 400-430 by taking the total population in the proposed areas, multiplying by 22.5% then that total by 84%. The assumption is that over some amount of time, the student population will mirror the current city. So that's the number to try to determine when calculating the expenses and capacities for calculating the financial and tax impact. I still think the 400-430 is low for the reasons I mentioned above. On the other hand the tax revenue will grow as property values grow, both of houses and Suburban Plaza. The question is whether the tax revenue will cover the growth of enrollment both on day one, but more importantly over time. That's not a complicated calculation to make and we can get a solid projection about the impact on both CSD and Decatur taxes. We're working on a spreadsheet.
Steve Markham August 23, 2012 at 02:00 PM
I would welcome it. It's too bad my n'hood is not on ther map. All of the subdivisions off Katie Kerr could use being tied to a city, whether it be Decatur or Avondale Estates. Perhaps we'd have, you know, street lights on Katie Kerr, regular maintenance of the roadside (the grass has been knee high for two years), MARTA bus stops, etc. And whoa, perhaps some sharrows painted on the road! Dare to dream. Instead we just get neglected by Dekalb County. Homeowners, realize that the slight increase in tax you'd pay would serve your community in good ways.
Tomi August 23, 2012 at 03:01 PM
I have a county commissioner, Larry Johnson. I live in unincoporated DeKalb. I am very active in DeKalb County government. I am in constant communication with Commissioner Johnson. I serve on the DeKalb County Community Development Advisory Council.
Nick August 24, 2012 at 07:11 PM
Does annexation mean the MARTA train will now have to slow down all the way to Avondale now? Why has this adherence not been lifted already?
bulldogger August 25, 2012 at 02:43 PM
NONONONONONONON, and multiply that by 1,000. Decatur is big enough and does not need the problems this annexation issue will bring. You know, it's kinda like a small business that's doing really well and the owner says..."I think I'd like to grow my business", so I'll add another location, and then another and then another. One day the "bubble bursts" and the owner of the once thriving small business has to declare bankruptcy because he was greedy and wanted more. It's the same principle, folks......A bigger Decatur is not necessarily a better Decatur.....think about it, we've got a great city now.....why do we want to change that?
Jhugh August 26, 2012 at 12:05 AM
Tuition students are merely adding to classrooms that are too full already. We should have school construction, lots more teacher/teacher support hiring plans, and redistricting in place before this is approved. We already have "learning cottages" cluttering up the landscape with only more problems in sight as CSD grows. Remember CSD estimated and hit their 12% growth projection exactly? They should be overestimating based on what is happening in this town which feels like rabid growth. RABID. Overcrowded schools do not a good system make and the luster will wear off without some real planning. There is hype about Decatur that cannot be sustained if we don't stop overcrowding schools. As soon as the tuition payers are cut, out of district teachers kids with courtesy tuition are next, which means a high teacher exit rate and a resulting increase in salary for new hires who want to be able to afford to live where they teach. Higher taxes again. Can't sustain it folks. There are houses selling for 700 and 800K in Oakhurst which is undermining the neighborhood and cultural landscape of what makes this town cool in the 1st place. I am not anti-progress/anti-growth, but we all have a responsibility (including home builders) to maintain the small town character of Decatur. We moved here to live and raise our children with all kinds of people, not just white people with giant houses. Look around and see if what is happening doesnt make you nervous.
Molly Badgett August 26, 2012 at 10:23 PM
"The students who you object to paying to educate ... fund your social security"? Really? How offensive, among other things. I would bet that the retiree has done her/his fair share of paying to educate kids over the years. And as someone who has never had kids, I, too, am offended by your comment (plus the sense of entitlement to my money that some parents have). I, too, have paid plenty to educate others' kids and not any of my own. I've not complained until now with this annexation proposal to pay even more with scant evidence that the cost-benefit analysis is positive. BTW, the retiree and I have contributed plenty to Social Security, too, so give your selfish, convoluted reasoning a break.
sun500 August 30, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Mayor Bill Floyd and his leadership team need to be very careful here. Decatur's school system is the goose that laid the golden egg. It's the primary driver of property values. It's the Decatur brand. Unfortunately, the goose is already wobbly - with packed classrooms, oversubscribed aftercare programs and steady pleas from school administrators for volunteers, tutors, contributions and more. If the city annexes without a commensurate and carefully-planned expansion of school resources, staffing and space - it will have only itself to blame for killing the goose that has already given us so much.
CJM August 31, 2012 at 10:04 PM
They are reconfigured just about every year! Enough already. Get the numbers right and plan accordingly. Is it that complicated?
Virginia Kendall September 24, 2012 at 04:31 PM
I say annex away. I live in Belvedere Park just south of memorial drive from Midway woods. There is a baby boom occurring among young professionals who have moved into the neighborhood in the last five years. I would much rather pay higher taxes just to be included in the School System that Decatur offers. It would be better and lessI expensive than private school costs. I wish City of Decatur would annex all the way down to Glenwood Road. The County hasn't been successful in reviving the Memorial Drive or Glenwood Road Commetcial Corridor that has been in major need of revitalization for over twenty years. Wal-Mart and other big box stores are not the solution to revitalization of this area of unincorporated Decatur. The location of this area of Decatur is an ideal location to live because it is much easier to access East Atlanta and I-20. Not tothe mention the residential lots are also much larger.
Peggy Hill September 27, 2012 at 02:07 AM
If Decatur annex all the way to Glenwood, they will have a different set of problems in which they are not ready to handle. Decatur Schools will be totally different and so will the quality of service in Decatur. Just my thoughts, think about what you are doing before it comes back a bite you. just so you know......
Gzgeorge George Hampton September 30, 2012 at 01:21 PM
All About Legacy Why annexation such a large portion into the City of Decatur? It is about legacy. What kind of accomplishments has Peggy Merriss and Bill Floyd done for the City of Decatur for the last 30 years. What better way to go out in style and retire. Peggy Merris started working for the City in 1983. She will have 30 years in by May of 2013. By annexing a large portion of commercial property for the City she would be the only sitting City Manager to ever get it done. It has been rumoured that she is having problems getting more home owners on board her dream of a big City. She has asked that a letter be sent to every home owner in the Areas that are being considered for Annexation. It is unclear what is being said in the letter to the home owners to make them want to be annexed into the City. The City Citizens of Decatur will have to wait and hear about it.

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