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Decatur Taxes Bashed At Annex Hearing

About 150 people packed a Monday public hearing on the possible annexation of land into Decatur. Most citizens opposing the idea said they don't want to pay higher city taxes.

People who might be annexed into Decatur told the City Commission on Monday they oppose the idea because Decatur's property taxes are so much higher than DeKalb County's.

Approximately 150 people crowded into the city commission chambers for the public hearing and comment session, part of the process as the commission decides if it wants to move ahead with annexation.

Taxes were the overriding theme.

F.M. Ripley, 70, told commissioners he moved out of Decatur to escape city property taxes.

"We've saved about $15,000 in six years," he said. "There's no benefit to being in the city."

In a list of FAQs, the city said taxes on a $250,000 house would be $4,844 in Decatur, $3,514 in unincorporated DeKalb. Of that amount, $4,079 goes to the city, $765 to the county.

Anne Lallerstedt said she has four children in college, health problems and an income under $100,000. Her budget is already stretched, she said, and "I don't feel like I can take on City of Decatur taxes."

Opponents also noted that DeKalb offers better tax breaks for senior citizens than Decatur.

"You're asking people like me to literally multiply my taxes by five because I can't qualify for your senior exemption," Richard Rogers said. "You're not offering seniors like me anything but a heartache."

Not everybody bashed Decatur's tax structure. Richard Johnson said Decatur's high taxes have paid off with good schools and an enviable quality of life.

"High taxes have made Decatur a great city," he said.

And more than one speaker said wanted to be annexed so they'd be governed by the Decatur City Commission instead of the DeKalb County Commission.

"I feel like you have my best interests as a homeowner in mind," Clair Lauderdale said.

On the other side of the line, Decatur residents said annexation would put a heavy burden on the city school system.

"This is not the time to add students to the fastest growing school system in Georgia," Pat Herold said.

Jen Huggins said she likes Decatur the way it is.

"I'm not interested in recruiting people who don't want to live in the city," she said. "I would like to see Decatur stay the same size and not pressure people into a hostile takeover."

Another public meeting will be held Dec. 3. The commission will vote Dec. 17 on whether to support annexation.

If it votes yes, state legislators will be asked to set up a referendum that would probably be held in November 2013. Only residents in the areas proposed for annexation would get to vote.

You can watch video of the entire two-hour meeting on the City of Decatur website.

The city also has an annexation page on the website with frequently asked questions, a tax calculator and a map of areas considered for annexation.

Here are some previous Patch stories about annexation.

  • Decatur school system starts annexation blog.
  • Decatur planning to annex.
  • Mayor says the city should annex Suburban Plaza.
  • .
  • Could a 'City of DeKalb' affect annexation timetable?
Unincorporated DeKalb October 23, 2012 at 12:30 PM
Mayor Bill Floyd said in the meeting tonight that even if the School Board votes that annexation is not in the best interest of the City Schools, then the Commissioners may still vote for annexation (check the transcripts tomorrow if you don’t believe me). Am I missing something here? You guys pay 2/3 of your property taxes to have great schools, but if it negatively affects those schools the Board of Commissioners can still vote for annexation. Is there a hidden agenda? The Mayor was very evasive on this subject. Yeah, I’m biased because I don’t want to be annexed, but Citizens of Decatur should really question that issue.
Mike Easterwood October 23, 2012 at 04:29 PM
What is the saying, "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts"?. The old Trojan Horse? Homeowners will get a chance to vote on annexation. If you are against it vote against the proposal and defeat it. Commercial Property owners get no chance to stop annexation. Just be glad you are a homeowner, at least you do get some rights. And the only reason the City wants you is to get to the commercial areas. Does that make you feel used? It should. The City does not want to annex residential areas and has turned them down before. The want money, that is the only reason to expand..... So beware of so called gifts, they are rarely gifts and require perpetual payments!
Ralph Ellis October 23, 2012 at 04:36 PM
Another thing to consider -- only registered voters living in areas that might be annexed can cast votes. Current Decatur residents would not vote. That's the law. Does it seem fair to you?
wiggedout October 23, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Yes, it's fair! The city folks, who love their city commission and school board, have them to represent their interests while the people outside the city have no one but themselves to fend off the takeover. Plus, it's not their taxes that would double or, in the case of our seniors, maybe triple. It would be in Decatur residents' best interest to vote in favor of annexation if it meant that one day their taxes would be lowered (ha, like that really would ever happen!) so it would be a case of a huge majority saying, sure let them in! and those unable to pay the taxes would be SOL. So, it's absolutely fair!

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