Mike Jacobs

Recent discussion of the possibility of cityhood or annexation for the neighborhoods surrounding Murphey Candler Park, West Nancy Creek Drive, and Silver Lake prompted me to commission a reliable public opinion poll of registered voters in these neighborhoods.

The poll included 227 registered voters who vote at Montgomery Elementary School, Ashford Parkside, and St. Martin in the Fields Episcopal Church. Nobody was left out of the pool of registered voters that was sampled. Unlike the various computer surveys that are circulating around these neighborhoods, it was impossible to vote multiple times by deleting the “cookies” in a web browser.

The results of the poll reveal overwhelming support for legislation that would give Murphey Candler, West Nancy Creek, and Silver Lake residents the opportunity to choose whether or not to join a city.

When asked whether residents of these neighborhoods would favor or oppose legislation that would enable them to choose whether to annex into a neighboring city (Dunwoody or Chamblee) or create a new city, 63.5 percent responded that they would favor such legislation, 18.0 percent would oppose it, and 18.5 percent have no opinion.

When asked to choose between annexing into Dunwoody, annexing into Chamblee, creating a new city of Brookhaven, or remaining in unincorporated DeKalb County, residents in these neighborhoods gave an interesting response that merits further exploration: 30.8 percent prefer a new city of Brookhaven, 19.0 percent prefer to join Dunwoody, 10.3 percent prefer to join Chamblee, 21.6 percent prefer to remain unincorporated, and 18.3 percent have no opinion.

Two things are evident from these results: (1) approximately three-fifths of residents in the Murphey Candler, West Nancy Creek, and Silver Lake neighborhoods support further exploration of some kind of municipal solution, and (2) approximately one-fifth of residents oppose continuing this discussion and would prefer to remain in unincorporated DeKalb.

With the significant level of interest in a new city of Brookhaven, I am going to prepare a skeletal charter for such a city and introduce it prior to the conclusion of this year’s session of the General Assembly, which will end in less than a month.

This is important because it will enable us to comply with a rule of the House Governmental Affairs Committee which says that legislation to create a new municipality must be introduced in the first (odd-numbered) year of a two-year legislative term and cannot be passed until the second (even-numbered) year of the term. This will make the creation of a new city of Brookhaven a possibility for 2012 instead of having to wait three years until 2014.

Of course, the only way there will be a city of Brookhaven is if interest in cityhood exists south of Windsor Parkway in Historic Brookhaven and in neighborhoods east of Peachtree Road such as Brookhaven Heights, Brookhaven Fields, Ashford Park, and Drew Valley.

I wish to take this opportunity to correct a false perception that some citizens have regarding cityhood, namely that it is “another layer of government” which necessarily causes “higher taxes.”

Citizens in the city of Dunwoody have a slightly lower tax burden than those of us in unincorporated DeKalb, but receive better services. Taxes in the city of Chamblee are only slightly higher than in unincorporated DeKalb. If you’re over age 65 in Chamblee, you pay no property taxes whatsoever for city services. Chamblee is considering cutting its millage rate this year. Their services are better, too.

What do I mean by “better services”? Prior to Dunwoody’s incorporation, the area within its current city limits contributed approximately $13.1 million of DeKalb County’s annual police budget. In return, DeKalb placed one or two active patrols in Dunwoody on any given shift. In the year after its incorporation, the new city of Dunwoody’s entire annual police budget was approximately $5.1 million. For this amount, they were able to run at least seven active patrols on any given shift.

Furthermore, a new city will not add a line item to your property tax bill. The existing “Unincorporated District Tax” line item will be transferred from the county to the new city.

Our neighboring cities are more efficient, furnish better services, and because they are conservatively managed, enjoy a similar or lower tax burden compared to what we pay. Citizens have made it clear that they’re interested in exploring municipal options for our community.

I look forward to continuing this conversation. I have organized a community-wide meeting on cityhood and annexation to be held on Tuesday, March 29, at 7 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall of Chamblee United Methodist Church, 4147 Chamblee Dunwoody Road. I hope to see you there.

State Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-North DeKalb) represents Brookhaven and the neighborhoods surrounding Murphey Candler Park and Silver Lake in the Georgia House of Representatives. He can be reached at (404) 656-0152 or repjacobs@comcast.net.