Dear Decaturish – LaVista Hills and the very flawed charter

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt October 31, 2015
DeKalb County Georgia. Source: Google Maps.

DeKalb County Georgia. Source: Google Maps.

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Dear Decaturish,

LaVista Hills cityhood advocates have stated that because the city charter caps the city property tax millage at 5.00 – a rate below the current Dekalb millage of 6.14 for the affected services – that this means lower taxes after incorporation.

This is demonstrably false.

To show how this works, let’s set up a side-by-side comparison of the city and county systems, using a house that has an appraised value of $300,000. In both systems, 40 percent of the house’s appraised value is taxable for the purposes of property taxes. So, we begin with our taxable values:

Dekalb County LaVista Hills
$120,000 $120,000

For residential properties, both the county and the proposed city exempt some of that value from taxation. The proposed city provides an exemption of $10,000, plus the value of 1 mill (see Sections 5.08 and 5.10 of the charter). If the millage rate is 5.00, we divide the assessed value above ($120,000) by 5 and get $24,000. Add $10,000 to that, and you get a total exemption of $34,000, which means that $86,000 remains taxable.

The county provides a flat $10,000 exemption, leaving $110,000 taxable. So, comparing the amount of house value that is subject to taxation after exemptions, we get:

Dekalb County LaVista Hills
$110,000 $86,000

We now apply the each government’s millage rate. For LaVista Hills, we multiply $86,000 by .005 and get $430.00. In Dekalb County, the rate is 6.14, so we multiply $110,000 by .00614 and get a tax bill of $675.40. It seems like Dekalb County is much more expensive. But Dekalb County taxes come with HOST credits that can’t be used on the city portion of the tax bill.

In 2015, Dekalb County taxpayers get to take 44 percent of their tax bill off as a credit, thanks to HOST. Since 44 percent of $675.40 is $297.18, we subtract that out and our final scores are:

Dekalb County LaVista Hills
$378.22 $430.00

Despite Dekalb County having a higher “sticker price” millage rate, they have a lower final tax bill for homeowners.

The reduction in millage is a tax cut for owners of commercial properties and people who rent out their homes, but if you own your own home, a millage rate of 5.00 would be a significant tax increase. And we haven’t yet gotten to the increased franchise fees paid by city residents.

The most dangerous thing in the world is the correct answer to the wrong question. It’s a true statement that the millage rate in the proposed city would be lower than Dekalb County, but the millage rate is not the same thing as the tax bill. It is disingenuous to represent it as such.

***

I can’t blame people for shopping around for a new government. We’ve all read the corruption stories out of Dekalb County. But the question that’s worth asking isn’t “Is the county corrupt?” (Answer: Yes.) The real question is whether this charter is a good idea.

We have seen previously that LaVista Hills would need to tax at its maximum rate (5.00) just to get close to the amount of money that the Carl Vinson Institute said it would need to run the city, meaning that there is no surplus. Appeals to Dunwoody and Brookhaven’s tax rate (both charge a millage of 2.74) are hollow. Those arguments ignore that those cities have very different tax bases than LaVista Hills would and they are providing services to 15,000 – 20,000 fewer people than the proposed city. The argument that the city would be more efficient than the county is questionable, but even then, the city’s estimated expenses were mostly based on data from (presumably more efficient?) Dunwoody and Smyrna, but used numbers from 2012 and 2013. Prices have gone up since then.

In addition to taxing at its max rate, the city would also have to deal with a charter that includes a residential property tax assessment freeze until 2020. If the city is counting on home values to rise and tax receipts to increase that way, it would only be able to capitalize on the houses that are sold or undergo major renovations. That places some serious restrictions on how much the city can expect its revenues to grow organically.

With the city bumped up against its tax cap, there’s little room in the budget to handle any increases in the cost of government. Even something as predictable as inflation, generally about 2 percent annually, would add about $700,000 to the city budget each year. If the city couldn’t match that growth in some other revenue source (for example, raising fees), it would have to go to a referendum just to deal with a basic force of economics. Or it could cut services.

Starting a city with no margin for error is a very risky move. These are, after all, the people who would be paying the police. If you’d like to punish Dekalb County for bad behavior, be my guest. Investigate everything and everyone. Anyone who did something illegal can go to jail and watch the soccer team practice. Unfortunately, we’re not leaving Dekalb County and all the unfortunate baggage that goes with that. The only thing that would change is that you’d be living under a city that is handcuffed to a very flawed charter with no financial breathing room.

And you would pay more for the privilege.

–  Russell A. Carleton

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of Decaturish.com. https://www.linkedin.com/in/danwhisenhunt

View all posts by Dan Whisenhunt

  • Ernest

    Ah! Pizza Cutter strikes again! Does fear, obfuscation and doubt work in online gambling?

    • Russell Carleton

      Actually, there’s quite a bit of certainty. You can see the math for yourself above. It is a simple mathematical reality that a millage of 5.00 in the city actually works out to a higher tax bill than 6.14 in the county.

      • Don

        I’d pay $50 to $80 a year to drive an Infinity over a Nissan, wouldn’t you? That’s the amount of money we’re talking about.

        • Russell Carleton

          If you want to try to sell it as a luxury car, then you can make that pitch. Be honest about the price being higher and the fiscal handcuffs that the charter puts on the city.

          But am I getting a luxury car or just something with a new coat of paint? The proposed police force is roughly the same size as what is currently assigned to the LaVista Hills footprint and the city loses the specialty services (SWAT, bomb squad, etc.) that come included in the price of admission with the county, as well as the services of the cops that are on specialty units (major crimes, domestic violence) that work larger swaths of the county. The amount that the CVI “budgets” for roads is below what Dunwoody spent to achieve what they called in their own budget document “triage response mode” (http://dunwoodyga.gov/ckeditorfiles/files/Budgets_and_Financial_Reports/cod_aocb_brochure_2015.pdf, pg. 20)

          And it looks like the city would have trouble sustaining even those spending levels. Not really a luxury car.

      • Ernest

        I believe we are presently paying 7.67 mil, Russell, so even using your calc we still would see roughly .50 mil drop. But that really doesn’t concern me at this point — I and many others would be willing to pay a little more to get locally dedicated police patrols (instead of currently having to pay for neighborhood security patrols), along with a pothole posse and local attention on code enforcement to clean up the too-many eyesores we have proliferating. Plus have an official voice and seat at the table like other cities in DeKalb. I really cannot stomach any more of the neglect by a county making us pay the highest taxes in the whole county, other than the great city of Decatur.

        • Russell Carleton

          The rate you are quoting (actually 7.64) was the 2014 rate, although with a 57.7 percent HOST credit. Under that system, the example house would have owed $354 in taxes.

          If you believe the higher price is worth it, you’re welcome to make that assessment. The numbers suggest that police presence in the new city would actually be reduced compared to what Dekalb provides now. If you believe that the current policing is below what you feel your neighborhood needs, the evidence suggests that there’s no help coming.

          • Marjorie Snook

            Russell is right. If you believe paying more is worth it, make that argument! But that isn’t what cityhood proponents have been saying. They say a new city garauntees lower taxes, which is false.

  • jo

    “And cutting deals with other law enforcement agencies for services”—You guys keep hinting that LVH will get polices services not provided by a LVH police for free (I don’t understand how giving up current services for less services is a good thing). The LVH facebook tries to make the case that the sheriff’s office will provide SWAT and other special services but as I look at the sheriff’s web page I only see what might be SWAT type officers around the jail. What I do see is a story about jail yoga for inmates and a picture of the sheriff walking with an indicted jail captain. NO thanks LVH.

  • Russell Carleton

    Now hang on a second. If you want to run around saying “more police” in your promotional materials, how do you know that? What if the city council decides to just hire one cop for the whole city? If you’re telling me that there’s no way to know, then it’s entirely possible that police presence would decrease, right?

    The CVI is not a budget, but it shows what a city could afford. We’ve seen that the city would struggle to make those levels of spending. If it were actually implemented as a budget, we can see what it would represent: level funding in terms of the number of patrol officers around, but the loss of specialty services and units currently provided by the county for free and roads at “triage response mode” levels. Since there is no surplus, if the city council were to try to boost the police funding, they would have to delete funding from some other area. So… police or roads?

    If your budget is strung so tight that your plan for avoiding those kinds of decisions is hoping that the county decides to double everyone’s property assessments (and after this year’s big jump, the county specifically called out that it is not likely that growth will be that big again), is that a smart place to start a city?

  • Kevin_Levitas

    Fool us once, shame on you, Mr. Carleton. Fool us twice, well, it just is not going to
    happen.

    The first time Mr. Carleton’s funny math splashed on the
    scene it was above the fold on the AJC some weeks ago. At that time, he claimed that city of LaVista
    Hills would not, as the experts at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government (CVI)
    have predicted, run a surplus. Instead,
    he claimed the new city would run a deficit, according to his calculations.

    One problem. He was
    wrong and not just a little bit.

    The problem then was that Mr. Carleton didn’t know the
    actual data and was determined to arrive at conclusion that met his anti-city
    stance. In addition, he either didn’t
    understand or chose to ignore the simple revenue and expense tables contained
    in the CVI report. Finally, what he didn’t
    know, he simply invented.

    When actual facts were applied to the analysis, it turned
    out that Mr. Carleton had made a calculation error of over $42,000,000 in
    figuring out tax exemptions and also omitted nearly $800,000 in available
    revenue to the city. The errors resulted
    in Mr. Carleton drawing a false conclusion.
    The truth was—and is—that the data from the CVI report shows that
    LaVista Hills would produce an annual surplus
    of several hundred thousand dollars.

    Running a healthy surplus, however, does not require cities
    to use the maximum available millage rate.
    Dunwoody charges an effective 1.74 mills, and Brookhaven is at 2.74 mills. Yet, Mr. Carleton assumes that LaVista Hills will
    charge 5 mills. Why? Because his funny math doesn’t work otherwise. Take Dunwoody, for example, which has a millage
    cap of only 3.08 but which seems to be doing just fine fiscally, socking away
    $1-2 million dollars of surplus annually. For a fuller explanation of Mr.
    Carleton erroneous figuring, please follow this link. http://www.lavistahills.com/the_truth_about_lavista_hills.

    To borrow from the World Series, this was a big swing and a
    miss, strike one!

    Now let’s dig into the equally big whiff contained in Mr.
    Carleton’s most recent effort posted here.

    Perhaps the place to start is with what’s not in his piece:
    any mention of the previous bogus claim of insolvency. Instead, we are treated to an equally
    baseless argument about why city residents will pay more in tax than their unincorporated
    counterparts. Unfortunately for his
    argument, Mr. Carleton faces a similar obstacle this time around: the
    facts.

    The simple truth is that residents in new cities like
    Dunwoody are paying less in property tax than their unincorporated counterparts. Want proof?
    Make a quick visit to the LaVista Hills Alliance Facebook page, and look
    at the September 10 post that contains two actual tax bills of virtually identically
    valued homes, one in Dunwoody and the other in unincorporated DeKalb. Even though the Dunwoody home is slightly
    higher in value, that resident pays over $250 LESS in property taxes.

    The tax savings come from having exponentially lower tax
    rates than the county but still being able to provide better services. Unlike Mr. Carleton’s pie-in-the-sky
    theoretical math, these are the facts on the ground in seven new cities in both
    Fulton and DeKalb.

    Swing and a miss!
    Strike two.

    Mr. Carleton starts his latest piece with another untrue
    claim: that supporters of cityhood assert that the millage cap is the reason
    that taxes will be lower. What we actually
    say is that there are seven proven new-city models that demonstrate how to run
    government services more efficiently and with substantially lower tax rates. We have noted over and over again that it is
    not necessary for new cities to get close to their millage cap amounts. Had Mr. Carleton’s theory played out in the
    first year of Dunwoody’s existence, the new city would have posted a $1.4
    million deficit instead of the $900,000 surplus it enjoyed (over three times the
    CVI-projected surplus). See the table below:

    AMOUNT DESCRIPTION

    3.04 Legislated
    millage cap in the Dunwoody Charter

    2.74 Gross city
    millage rate in Dunwoody

    1.74 Net city
    millage rate (used by Dunwoody since its incorporation)

    57.2368% Net millage rate as a percentage of estimated rate (3.04)

    $279,000 Annual Dunwoody surplus projected by CVI

    Dunwoody Revenue Estimates by CVI (3.08
    mill cap)

    $3,309,014 Real property

    $416,826 Personal property

    $205,941 Motor Vehicle

    $188,386 Intangible

    $4,120,167 Total

    Dunwoody First-Year Revenue
    Applying 1.74 mills (actual rate)

    $1,893,974 Real Property

    $238,578 Personal property

    $117,874 Motor Vehicle

    $107,826 Intangible

    $2,358,252 Total

    Totals

    $1,761,915 Difference between CVI-projected revenue and revenue at
    57.2368% (Carleton)

    -$1,482,915 Dunwoody deficit according to Carleton analysis (estimated
    surplus-difference)

    $902,079 Actual 2009 Dunwoody budget surplus

    So if cities like Dunwoody never exceed the cap, one might
    wonder what the point of a cap is. The answer
    has two components. First, a cap imposes
    something that is absent in DeKalb government: citizen control over maximum tax
    rates. In the new city, only the residents
    could permit the millage rate to exceed five, a figure the county is already
    well beyond. Second, having a significant
    difference between an actual millage rate and the cap amount allows a city to
    borrow at more favorable interest rates should residents decide to support such
    a plan for particular projects. (One of
    the many fabrications coming from the anti-city crowd is that cities cannot
    issues bonds. This utter falsehood, like
    its equally invented claim about traffic congestion should cityhood prevail, does
    not deserve any comment beyond this parenthetical mention.)

    The second false claim Mr. Carleton makes is that the Carl
    Vinson Institute set an amount that LaVista Hills would need to run the city. I wish that I could believe Mr. Carleton just
    has not read the CVI report or any of the dozen or so times it has been pointed
    out that the CVI report does attempt to create a budget. Unfortunately, I sense that he simply
    disregards this information because it does not fit with the tale that he and other
    anti-city crusaders are trying to spin.

    Here is what the CVI report states on pages 3-4 (emphasis below
    added):

    Additionally, the study is not intended to be a model budget for a new city. A
    newly elected city council will endeavor to represent their constituencies and
    will have a set of priorities that may impact both taxing and spending
    patterns. We are confident however, that looking at currently available
    revenues and analyzing comparable government municipal government spending that
    our study reflects a realistic assessment of likely fiscal feasibility. Based
    on our analysis, we find that likely available revenues exceed likely
    expenditures for the services identified to be provided, and therefore have
    concluded that a city comprised of the LaVista Hills study area is fiscally
    feasible.

    As Mr. Carleton knows or certainly should know by now, CVI feasibility
    reports are essentially crash tests.
    They attempt to answer a simple question: is there sufficient revenue in
    the city footprint to run a city? The
    answer in the case of LaVista Hills is a resounding YES.

    The difficult task of budgeting is left to elected officials
    because they are the ones properly charged with setting spending levels in
    accordance with the wishes of those whose elected them. What a refreshing thought: local officials,
    who live in our community, making decisions about how to spend our tax money
    locally.

    Swing and a miss, Mr. Carleton! That’s strike three.

  • Kevin_Levitas

    Fool us once, shame on you, Mr. Carleton. Fool us twice, well, it just is not going to
    happen.

    The first time Mr. Carleton’s funny math splashed on the scene it was above the fold on the AJC some weeks ago. At that time, he claimed that city of LaVista Hills would not, as the experts at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government (CVI)
    have predicted, run a surplus. Instead, he claimed the new city would run a deficit, according to his calculations.

    One problem. He was wrong and not just a little bit.

    The problem then was that Mr. Carleton didn’t know the actual data and was determined to arrive at conclusion that met his anti-city stance. In addition, he either didn’t understand or chose to ignore the simple revenue and expense tables contained in the CVI report. Finally, what he didn’t know, he simply invented.

    When actual facts were applied to the analysis, it turned out that Mr. Carleton had made a calculation error of over $42,000,000 in figuring out tax exemptions and also omitted nearly $800,000 in available revenue to the city. The errors resulted
    in Mr. Carleton drawing a false conclusion.

    The truth was—and is—that the data from the CVI report shows that LaVista Hills would produce an annual surplus of several hundred thousand dollars.

    Running a healthy surplus, however, does not require cities
    to use the maximum available millage rate. Dunwoody charges an effective 1.74 mills, and Brookhaven is at 2.74 mills. Yet, Mr. Carleton assumes that LaVista Hills will charge 5 mills. Why? Because his funny math doesn’t work otherwise. Take Dunwoody, for example, which has a millage cap of only 3.08 but which seems to be doing just fine fiscally, socking away $1-2 million dollars of surplus annually. For a fuller explanation of Mr. Carleton erroneous figuring, please follow this link. http://www.lavistahills.com/the_truth_about_lavista_hills.

    To borrow from the World Series, this was a big swing and a miss, strike one!

    Now let’s dig into the equally big whiff contained in Mr. Carleton’s most recent effort posted here.

    Perhaps the place to start is with what’s not in his piece: any mention of the previous bogus claim of insolvency. Instead, we are treated to an equally baseless argument about why city residents will pay more in tax than their unincorporated counterparts. Unfortunately for his argument, Mr. Carleton faces a similar obstacle this time around: the facts.

    The simple truth is that residents in new cities like Dunwoody are paying less in property tax than their unincorporated counterparts. Want proof? Make a quick visit to the LaVista Hills Alliance Facebook page, and look at the September 10 post that contains two actual tax bills of virtually identically valued homes, one in Dunwoody and the other in unincorporated DeKalb. Even though the Dunwoody home is slightly
    higher in value, that resident pays over $250 LESS in property taxes.

    The tax savings come from having exponentially lower tax rates than the county but still being able to provide better services. Unlike Mr. Carleton’s pie-in-the-sky
    theoretical math, these are the facts on the ground in seven new cities in both
    Fulton and DeKalb.

    Swing and a miss! Strike two.

    Mr. Carleton starts his latest piece with another untrue claim: that supporters of cityhood assert that the millage cap is the reason that taxes will be lower. What we actually say is that there are seven proven new-city models that demonstrate how to run government services more efficiently and with substantially lower tax rates. We have noted over and over again that it is not necessary for new cities to get close to their millage cap amounts. Had Mr. Carleton’s theory played out in the first year of Dunwoody’s existence, the new city would have posted a $1.4 million deficit instead of the $900,000 surplus it enjoyed (over three times the CVI-projected surplus). See the table below:

    AMOUNT DESCRIPTION

    3.04 Legislated millage cap in the Dunwoody Charter

    2.74 Gross citymillage rate in Dunwoody

    1.74 Net city millage rate (used by Dunwoody since its incorporation)

    57.2368% Net millage rate as a percentage of estimated rate (3.04)

    $279,000 Annual Dunwoody surplus projected by CVI

    Dunwoody Revenue Estimates by CVI (3.08
    mill cap)

    $3,309,014 Real property

    $416,826 Personal property

    $205,941 Motor Vehicle

    $188,386 Intangible

    $4,120,167 Total

    Dunwoody First-Year Revenue Applying 1.74 mills (actual rate)

    $1,893,974 Real Property

    $238,578 Personal property

    $117,874 Motor Vehicle

    $107,826 Intangible

    $2,358,252 Total

    Totals

    $1,761,915 Difference between CVI-projected revenue and revenue at 57.2368% (Carleton)

    -$1,482,915 Dunwoody deficit according to Carleton analysis (estimated surplus-difference)

    $902,079 Actual 2009 Dunwoody budget surplus

    So if cities like Dunwoody never exceed the cap, one might wonder what the point of a cap is. The answer has two components. First, a cap imposes something that is absent in DeKalb government: citizen control over maximum tax rates. In the new city, only the residents could permit the millage rate to exceed five, a figure the county is already well beyond. Second, having a significant difference between an actual millage rate and the cap amount allows a city to borrow at more favorable interest rates should residents decide to support such a plan for particular projects. (One of the many fabrications coming from the anti-city crowd is that cities cannot
    issues bonds. This utter falsehood, like its equally invented claim about traffic congestion should cityhood prevail, does not deserve any comment beyond this parenthetical mention.)

    The second false claim Mr. Carleton makes is that the Carl Vinson Institute set an amount that LaVista Hills would need to run the city. I wish that I could believe Mr. Carleton just has not read the CVI report or any of the dozen or so times it has been pointe out that the CVI report does attempt to create a budget. Unfortunately, I sense that he simply disregards this information because it does not fit with the tale that he and other anti-city crusaders are trying to spin.

    Here is what the CVI report states on pages 3-4:

    Additionally, the study is not intended to be a model budget for a new city. A newly elected city council will endeavor to represent their constituencies and will have a set of priorities that may impact both taxing and spending patterns. We are confident however, that looking at currently available revenues and analyzing comparable government municipal government spending that our study reflects a realistic assessment of likely fiscal feasibility. Based on our analysis, we find that likely available revenues exceed likely expenditures for the services identified to be provided, and therefore have concluded that a city comprised of the LaVista Hills study area is fiscally feasible.

    As Mr. Carleton knows or certainly should know by now, CVI feasibility reports are essentially crash tests. They attempt to answer a simple question: is there sufficient revenue in the city footprint to run a city? The answer in the case of LaVista Hills is a resounding YES.

    The difficult task of budgeting is left to elected officials because they are the ones properly charged with setting spending levels in accordance with the wishes of those whose elected them. What a refreshing thought: local officials, who live in our community, making decisions about how to spend our tax money locally.

    Swing and a miss, Mr. Carleton! That’s strike three.

    • Russell Carleton

      There is a rather important connection that you are missing in here. The tax millage that a city sets is directly related to the amount of revenue that it can collect and in turn the amount of money that it can spend to provide services.

      Given the information in the CVI report, if the city had tried to use Dunwoody’s 2.74 rate, they would have run a $6 million deficit. They would have had about $28.5 million to spend, with CVI projecting $34.5 million in expenses. The reason that I ran the numbers at 5.00 is that it represents the maximum amount of money that the city could have raised and it wasn’t quite enough. The city can’t simply set its rates to match Dunwoody and just magically become solvent.

      The reason that I estimated the city’s expenses at 5.00 is because I wanted to see what the maximum amount that the city could raise would be. It wasn’t quite enough. If the city council would like to go with a lower rate, they would be at liberty to do so, but they would have even less to spend. While the CVI may not be a budget, it is a good place to start. We can look to see what their figures would “buy.” Maybe you think that they budgeted too much for X and not enough for Y, which is fine. You’re welcome to point out where you’d allocate things differently, but eventually, you have to make your projected expenses, however you see them, fit with your projected income.

      I’m having trouble reconciling your stated trust for the CVI with the following observations:

      1) The CVI did not use the projected contingency fund in its surplus calculations. This is because a responsible city has to be prepared for eventualities that aren’t predictable or expected. It appears that you disagree with them and believe that the contingency fund can be considered surplus. If so, do you believe that this money can be diverted to other budgetary needs? If yes, what would the city do if it met with an unplanned expense?

      2) You state that the CVI report is not a final budget, which is true. In that case, it would seem unwise to make any campaign promises about service levels based on it. Statements like “more police” indicate that you can know in advance how many police would be hired. If $34.5 million isn’t a reasonable estimate for how much the city will cost to run, what is? We can paint a picture of what that $34.5 million city would look like, but if the revenue projections say you can’t fund it, something would have to be cut.

      3) If the CVI was just a “crash test” what other document can voters look to when deciding whether the city makes sense and on what expertise would you base that document?

      One other thing:

      Concerning your interpretation of what my model would have said about Dunwoody before it incorporated, I would correct you on the issue. Dunwoody’s CVI report assumed the county’s then-current millage rate for the unincorporated areas of 2.08 when it projected revenues. Dunwoody’s statutory cap is 3.08. I would have looked at Dunwoody’s revenue estimates and said that the city could collect that much money and had more if it chose to. Given the information in their report, I’m not surprised that they ended up with a surplus at all. By setting a tax cap well above what was being collected, that’s at least sound fiscal policy. In the case of LaVista Hills, the millage cap was set well below the then-current Dekalb rate (7.64 vs. 5.00). That means that anything that was estimated off the Dekalb rate has to be reduced accordingly. Had LaVista Hills similarly set its cap to 8.64, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

  • laurelridger

    I find it interesting that while Lavista Hills leaders talk about the wonderful talent that exists in our community, unless you agree with them, you are not qualified to render an opinion.

    Hans Utz. former Atlanta COO, and Gunter Sharp, a GA Tech professor that Lavista Hills used to quote themselves, have validated Russell Carleton’s analysis. Mr. Carleton’s figures are correct. Both Utz and Sharp also decried the unprofessional behavior of Lavista Hills leadership, just as we see here.

    • Kevin_Levitas

      So much wrong in such a few sentences. First, LaVista Hills has never quoted either Mr. Utz or Mr. Sharp, except perhaps to take issue with any errant conclusions that may have been reached. Second, anyone can render an opinion, but the quality of that opinion is limited by the quality of the data used to render it. Mr. Carleton’s data was faulty, so while his spreadsheet did the math it was told to do, the input data was fanciful. I find irony in being labeled “unprofessional,” as neither Mr. Carleton nor I have any subject matter expertise. Certainly, Mr. Utz has relevant expertise as do the numerous numbers of staff at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. As Mr. Carleton notes, this is about math, and the numbers that he uses just don’t add up, and this issue is too important to leave the record uncorrected.

      • Russell Carleton

        If I may know which numbers were incorrect, I will happily take a look.

        • Suzie Lavista’s Neighbor

          Russell. Kevin will never tell you because he either doesn’t know or knows you and the other two people are right. He throws BS out there and then goes and hides. I have seen it from his crowd for three years now. Someone ask a question or cites a point with facts they do not like and they disappear. Even worse they accuse people of things on their facebook pages but then block them from responding, How scummy does one have to be to do something like that? He, MKW and Steve Schultz are the reason I am voting no. They lied to me 5 minutes into the first meeting I attended when they said they are not here to advocate and then spent a hour doing just that. I would have respected them if they just told the truth about their intentions. Ironically I was pro city going in but the total lack of ethics from the Lakeside/Lavista Hills crowd made me realize as bad as some in Dekalb government are these people are worse. The question is when this gets voted down today will they and their high dollar pay for play donors just go away? Hopefully will see some for sale signs in front of their homes by the weekend. They certainly have a bunch of realtors on their side vying to get their business. By the way Kevin who is Suzie Lavista? You approved her on our nextdoor neighborhood group but she has no address? Lots of posts from her on their on this city thing but I have yet to meet her walking through the neighborhood. Crazy how her last name is Lavista isn’t it?

    • Hans

      let’s be clear, I also decried the boogeyman-isms of the DeKalb Strong crowd. While the math may be correct, the conclusions are not. LVH looks to be financially viable even capped at the 5 mills. A more accurate assessment will be that LVH will need to make prioritization decisions about where to invest the money they will raise, since the 5 mill cap will limit them from delivering both significant tax decreases and significant service enhancements. But certainly one or the other (and perhaps both with enough work) is possible given professional management…

      …of which I have seen scant evidence from the LVH supporters. Mr. Levitas continues to take great pains to discredit Mr. Carleton’s math below, but Mr. Levitas himself routinely makes an enormous policy error in his posts. His desire to count the $800,000 contingency as surplus violates every financially prudent best practice there is. At a minimum, treating that like surplus will negatively impact the new city’s bond ratings, which will raise virtually every other cost the city will incur and in one stroke render the 5 mill cap a problem. The $800K is not surplus under any condition or in any responsible scenario. LVH will need to set that aside every year until there is a pot of at least 20% of the general fund sitting in reserve. Full stop. A professional would recognize this, as both Mr. Carelton and CVI did. It greatly concerns me that Mr. Levitas presents himself as knowledgeable on this topic but continues to err on such a basic principle. It is just another example of the tone and tenor of LVH leadership.

      I’ll say it again: the voters deserve better.

  • laurelridger

    I think it’s a dodge to say that the CVI study is not a budget. Unfortunately, it’s the closest thing to one that we get. And that is the general purpose it serves — to be the closest projection to an actual budget. Every project begins with a budget. That’s why a study and a clearly defined map are (supposed to be) required at the time a proposal is made.

  • Cities Are Bad

    I am so looking forward to the city defeat tomorrow so everyone can go back to work and Dekalb can be stronger than ever. Once the smart people vote this down we will need to train and remind the others who is in control and who pays for all the parties and fun forever and ever. Dekalb Strong is winning the war and the weapons are the smart people of the county!

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