CSD, Decatur release statement about annexation
Decatur City Manager Peggy Merris and City Schools of Decatur Superintendent Phyllis Edwards on Saturday released a joint statement about the city’s annexation plans.
The plans provide an updated timeline, suggesting an annexation referendum could make it to the ballot as early as July 2015.
Here is the statement from Merriss and Edwards ….
The City Schools of Decatur and the City of Decatur are working together to review and analyze implications related to projections of unparalleled student population growth as well as the opportunities and challenges presented by potential annexation.
Why is annexation being considered at this time:
The 2010 Strategic Plan as Part of GOAL 9: EXPAND AND DIVERSIFY THE CITY’S REVENUE BASE, Task 9B states: “Explore annexation opportunities in partnership with the City Schools of Decatur that expand the property tax base and enhance school operations.”
During the 2013 and 2014 sessions of the General Assembly, legislation to create the cities of Briarcliff, Lakeside and Tucker were considered. Incorporation of these areas would have municipalized the entire northern part of DeKalb County and resulted in placing new cities immediately contiguous to the existing City of Decatur city limits. None of the bills passed.
Currently, the Georgia House Governmental Affairs Committee Chairwoman Amy Carter (R-Valdosta) has issued a statement indicating that DeKalb County cityhood proponents have until November 15, 2014 to submit an agreed upon map and if they do not she will appoint a five-member panel to produce a map by December 31, 2015.
Given the current efforts to municipalize the unincorporated northern area of DeKalb County, the City of Decatur is in a position where long-term permanent city limits must be determined. Once the City is adjacent to another city, annexation is no longer a possibility. In addition to the long-term city limit definition, key objectives of the annexation master plan are to influence and control development at key gateways; expand and stabilize the property tax base; respond to interest from property owners; and, consolidate partial parcels.
Student population growth:
Rapid growth in student enrollment at City Schools of Decatur has been occurring for many years now. The growth in student enrollment has been studied by professional demographic experts and has been a topic of serious conversation at School Board meetings and also at joint meetings with the City Commission. The issue has been publically discussed and publicized through various community meetings and in media outlets. Since 2004, there have been a number of community and parent listening sessions that have taken place to obtain comment and input on the topic.
The City Schools of Decatur and the City of Decatur have contracted with the Sizemore Group to develop demographic projections for school-age population over time from areas identified in the 2014 draft annexation master plan. Those estimates continue to be refined. Preliminary information indicates that without any annexation, student enrollment is expected to increase by approximately 3,000 students. If the areas that are currently included in the draft annexation master plan are annexed, there will be an addition of approximately 580 more students by 2020.
The predicted growth in student enrollment appears to be coming from within the existing city limits. Future enrollment projections take into account current and potential likely future developments within the City. City School staff members are working through the predictions in terms of assuring a high quality education for the students and providing facilities that support an outstanding learning environment.
City Schools of Decatur have addressed increased enrollments over the past ten years by implementing system-wide master plans that have used proceeds from Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST) and from Certificates of Participation (COPs) capital financing for a program of facility renovation, expansion and re-use. Master planning efforts are currently underway for Renfroe Middle School and Decatur High School to accommodate enrollment growth that is almost entirely due to predictions of a larger student age population within the existing city limits.
Staff and consultant teams working with the City Schools and the City of Decatur are assessing service delivery needs and additional facilities will likely be part of any annexation plan. City Schools have already identified that an additional school facility will likely be needed without any annexation. Regretfully, that poses an extreme challenge within the existing city limits where even if there were 6-10 available acres of land, the going price is at, or above, $1million an acre. Part of the analysis of the draft 2014 annexation master plan is to identify possibilities for public facilities, including potential school sites.
Expansion of the tax base:
Another part of the analysis is the implications for adding to, and diversifying, the real property tax base. Both the City Schools of Decatur and the City of Decatur are reviewing the potential revenues and expenditures associated with the draft annexation master plan area. Opportunities to expand the tax base in the long term in order to stabilize and minimize potential future tax increases must be considered and annexation provides an opportunity for that possibility.
There is still a long way to go in the process. Both the City Schools and the City of Decatur are working on the background analysis and review that is needed in order to inform the discussion for the public and the Board of Education and the City Commission.
– November 3, 2014: City Commission work session at 6:30 p.m. Public hearing during regular City Commission meeting, which starts at 7:30 p.m. Both meetings at Decatur City Hall, 509 N. McDonough St. Live stream of the meetings will be available online here.
– November 5, 2014: Board of Education work session on enrollment numbers. 6:30 p.m. at City Schools Administrative Office, 125 Electric Ave.
– November 12, 2014: Joint Work Session with City Commission and Board of Education. 6 p.m. at Decatur City Hall, 509 N. McDonough St.
– December 1, 2014: Final report released to public.
– December 9, 2014: Board of Education considers adoption of a resolution regarding the Annexation Master Plan.
– December 15, 2014: City Commission considers adoption of an annexation resolution.
If the City Commission adopts a plan, then:
– January – April, 2015: General Assembly considers and adopts legislation incorporating the annexation request, including authorizing a referendum.
If the General Assembly adopts the legislation and the Governor signs it, then:
– July, 2015 or in November, 2015: A referendum is held.
If the referendum passes in the affirmative, then:
– December, 2015: Annexation is effective.
– June 1, 2016: First Installment tax bills are due.
– August, 2016: School year begins.
The process of determining whether or not to move forward with an annexation plan has not been completed. The City Schools and the City are working together because if a plan is adopted, it needs to serve and enhance all of the public needs in the community. Task 9B of Goal 9 of 2010 Strategic Plan is clear: “Explore annexation opportunities in partnership with the City Schools of Decatur that expand the property tax base and enhance school operations.” The question of annexation will not exist in the future – once the area surrounding the existing city limits is part of an incorporated city, there will be no choice and it is very likely that in the next 3-5 years, the City of Decatur will be surrounded by other incorporated cities. IF the past is any indication, the City Schools will continue to face enormous pressures in the next five years and moving forward into the future. Those pressures may not be able to be addressed within the existing city limits so annexation has to be explored.
City Manager, City of Decatur
Dr. Phyllis Edwards