LaVista Hills says financial study shows surplus, county says new cities could cost $17 million

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt May 15, 2015
DeKalb County Georgia. Source: Google Maps.

DeKalb County Georgia. Source: Google Maps.

This story has been updated. 

LaVista Hills YES has concluded its latest financial feasibility study and determined the city could operate with a $1.7 million annual surplus.

Meanwhile, the county is releasing data showing that the creation of the proposed new cities of Tucker and LaVista Hills would cost the county $17 million in tax revenue.

LaVista Hills revamped its study after last-minute map changes at the state Legislature. A special legislative panel attempted to the boundaries back in December, but that didn’t stop a few final tweaks before both bills passed. Gov. Nathan Deal signed both bills this week.

The new LaVista Hills study was conducted by the Carl Vinson Institute at the University of Georgia.

“The UGA analysis confirms what we already knew, that LaVista Hills will provide increased services with no new taxes,” Allen Venet, co-chair of LaVista Hills YES said in a press release. “UGA completed as conservative and accurate a study as possible, and they still project a surplus of more than a million and a half dollars every year.”

According to a summary of the study:

– Total annual revenues projected to be $36,903,971 and total annual expenses $34,488,546.

– A resident population estimated at 67,446.

– 439 lane miles of well-maintained roads, regularly repaved and not just patched.

– Over 50 acres of well-maintained parks.

The city of Tucker is also updated its feasibility study, which showed the city could operate with an $800,000 surplus.

Meanwhile, the county is warning taxpayers in the county of what they stand to lose if voters approve both cities, which are on the ballot this November.

According to a financial analysis provided by DeKalb County, LaVista Hills and Tucker could cost the county $17.3 million in revenue. It’s worth noting here that the county’s numbers include the cost of Tucker providing police services, but Tucker says it will still use the county’s police services. If that holds true, then the cost to the county will be closer to $13 million.

Both of the cityhood movement said the county’s numbers show a shifting of taxpayer money toward leaner, more efficient services for residents.

“There is no question that the residents of every city in DeKalb pay some of their local taxes to their city. So, obviously, creation of new cities like LaVista Hills and Tucker mean that more funds will shift away from the inefficient county bureaucracy to more efficient city governments,” Venet said. “More efficient, more responsive, local government is a gain, not a loss, for everyone in DeKalb.”

Venet said it is “wrong to focus on only one side of a two-sided equation.”

“Revenues shift from the County to the new cities, but the cost of providing critical local government services shifts at the same time,” he said. “Many opponents of cityhood focus only of the revenue numbers, but a true, fair, analysis must also look at the savings to the county since so many services are provided by the cities, new and old. Also remember that most property taxes continue to flow to the County schools and the County, not to the cities. Therefore, as cities, new and old, continue to do a better job of fostering smart economic growth, leading to increased tax revenues, those increased taxes help all residents of DeKalb County.”

Michelle Penkava of Tucker 2015 said, “What the citizens of Tucker are seeking is an opportunity to be part of the decision making process influencing quality of life and economic development matters such as planning and zoning, code enforcement, and parks and recreation.”

“Our cityhood model will reroute property taxes paid to DeKalb County for those particular services to the City of Tucker,” Penkava said. “The majority of these dollars are already being allocated by DeKalb County to provide services to the Tucker community, but incorporating would allow Tucker citizens to determine how they will be allocated.  Through cityhood we will ensure the community has dedicated personnel to address local concerns and promote healthy growth that will benefit not only Tucker, but all of DeKalb County.

“We want to ensure that the county not only remains viable, but continues to prosper and grow to benefit all DeKalb County citizens.”

Read more: The financial analysis on the creation of the new cities of Tucker and LaVista Hills, provided by DeKalb county. 

LaVista Hills Economic Impact3.compressed Tucker Economic Impact3.compressed

About Dan Whisenhunt

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  • An American Patriot

    Yeah, well maybe with a 17M decrease in revenue will come increased effectiveness and less corruption.

    • Smarter Than You

      Adding another layer of politicians and another bureaucracy does not create efficiency and mostly adds to the possibility of corruption. Look at the actual, real history of Brookhaven and Dunwoody. You will STILL be using Dekalb services if cities muscle their way in – but they will be delivered from a weaker, less efficient government.

  • Russell Carleton

    This news story references the LaVista Hills Carl Vincent Institute study, which is available on their website. (

    Quotes are mostly from there.

    Page 6 (CVI report) : “The revenue estimates outlined below include all major revenue sources a city representing the study area would have collected had it existed in 2014 and assessed taxes and fees at rates similar to DeKalb County in that same year”

    Page 17 (CVI): “The figures given here represent the amount of real property taxes being paid by study area residents to the county for the services being provided through county special service tax districts… The 2014 millage rate for the police services that were previously included in the special services tax district is 6.18 mills and the millage rate for the remaining unincorporated special services is 1.46 mills. Together, these two millage rates equal 7.64 mills and represent services funded from the previous unincorporated special tax district.”

    HB 520 (the LaVista Hills Charter), line 221ff: “The millage rate imposed for ad valorem taxes on real property shall not exceed 5.00 unless a higher limit is recommended by resolution of the city council and approved by a majority vote of the qualified voters of the City of LaVista Hills voting on the issue in a referendum;”

    Page 8 of the CVI report states an estimated revenue of $11,690,718 from property taxes. Page 21 reports the operating surplus of $1,726,682 that the press release mentions above.

    Problem: The property tax revenue estimate of $11.6M is based on a millage of 7.64, which is what the county charges now for police and special services. That suggests that one mill generates $1,530,198 in revenue.

    Such a millage rate would exceed what the city charter allows without a referendum (see above). If the city government were to set its millage rate at the maximum allowed by the charter (5.00 mills), it would generate $7,650,993 in revenue from property taxes, which is a difference from the above of $4,039,725.

    Once this adjustment is put into place, the city has a projected operating deficit of $2,313,043.

    • notapunk

      Russell Carlton, the county doesn’t collect 7.64 mills from homeowners for those items. Check your tax bill. The amount you pay is actually substantially lower and falls well within the 5 mill limit in the proposed charter. The difference is not property tax revenue.

      • Russell Carleton

        You are mostly correct. I was in the wrong on this one. I would retract the above in the sense that LVH could not statutorily make this budget work . The county millage rate for those services is 7.64 (6.18 for police, 1.46 for unincorporated services fund).

        The difference is that cities do not give as generous a homestead exemption nor as much HOST relief, so a mill in a city generates more money. It would still be the same dollar amount, although the millage rate could still fall below 5.00 and generate that amount.

        • notapunk

          Cities might also be able to provide the same services for less outlay, due to the law of diminishing returns on ” bigger is better.” This all goes well beyond rudimentary mathematics that some are trying to apply.

          • Russell Carleton

            There’s actually research to back that up. This study says that once you get past 250k in population, you start losing efficiency and Dekalb County is well past 250k.


          • notapunk

            That’s very evident in the efficiency study Lee May pushed for and the county commissioned. That study was eye-opening and should be required reading for all sides of the cityhood debate. There’s a roadmap for doing things better buried in there.

          • Russell Carleton

            I read it. There’s a lot of good stuff in there. At this point, I think that some sort of sub-division of the county is inevitable. If the way that you do administratively is cities, then so be it. The problem is that there’s been no coordination to this process to make sure that everyone gets taken care of.

  • An American Patriot

    Well guys, you know what, IMO until we get rid of 1) corruption and mismanagement in the DCSS, and 2) corruption and mismanagement in DeKalb County Administration we’re always going to have a problem, no matter if the Cityhood things are voted in or not. The folks who are running things in the county where i’ve lived all my life are doing a really, really lousy stinking job and until we are able to vote in some REAL managers, nothing’s going to change. BTW, can someone tell me when’s the last time a Republican held the top job in DeKalb. That may go a long way in figuring out exactly why we’re in the mess we’re in.

  • RAJ

    Well….Finally some”hard”numbers,but we should continue to pick them apart. Don’t worry about that 5 mill cap and small surplus,it’s a good bet that our home values will increase on average 20k with the label “City of LaVista Hills’ rather than unincorporated DeKalb. More DeKalb corruption news on the way…see my ethics filings against Stan Watson & Vaughn Irons in last Sat AJC. More maps on the way soon!

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