By John Schaffner
The city of Atlanta’s budget crisis has once again brought forth the suggestion that Buckhead should break free and incorporate as a separate municipality.
This time, the suggestion is outlined in a four-page, color flier that the Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation (FCTF) claims it mailed to 50,000 households, not all within the boundaries of Buckhead.
The headline states: “Forming the city of Buckhead would result in a reduction of taxes by over 50 percent.”
The flier was written by Glenn Delk, a partner in the law firm of Lightmas & Delk, but was distributed under the banner of FCTF.
FCTF President John Sherman said, “Whether we are successful or not, the mayor and City Council will — at long last — realize that we are serious about better and more professional city government, outsourcing city services whenever services could be improved at lower costs and performance-based standards for every city employee.”
Several Buckhead leaders denounced the idea, saying it would hurt the ability of Atlanta’s government and schools to operate and would financially devastate Atlanta.
Buckhead represents about 45 percent of Atlanta’s property and sales tax base. Buckhead properties in Atlanta were assessed this year at about $72.4 billion, according to Fulton County officials.
Buckhead has continued to experience tremendous growth and is home to two of the region’s most upscale malls, Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza, some of the most expensive single-family homes and condominiums, and many of Atlanta’s largest office buildings. It also is home to many of the city’s top companies.
Sam Massell has repeatedly said that extracting Buckhead from the city of Atlanta and making it a separate municipality is “a foolish idea. It will bankrupt Atlanta.” Massell says Atlanta is the engine that powers the region in growth and prosperity.
Scotty Greene, the executive director of the Buckhead Community Improvement District (CID), a group of about 300 commercial property owners that taxes itself to fund roads and other improvements to the area, believes, like Massell, that the best approach is to work with city government, not leave it.
Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin’s reported reaction to the FCTF proposal: She opposed the idea of Buckhead, the city’s most affluent community, breaking off and becoming its own city, saying it would go against diversity efforts of the past 50 years.
By diversity, Franklin said she means the city’s socioeconomic, cultural, business and residential makeup. The mayor said the city has flourished “because we have embraced our diversity, not because we have opposed it.”
“I think it is a distraction from the real issues facing the city,” she has said. “The real issue is how do we survive in a global economy?”