Advocates of a proposed city to be called Lakeside have released a University of Georgia study that finds their plan to create the city in central DeKalb County is financially sound.
The Lakeside City Alliance is the first of several groups hoping to incorporate a city in the north-central corridor of the county to publish a completed feasibility study.
“We are thrilled that our community generates the revenue necessary to govern itself,” said Mary Kay Woodworth, chair of the Lakeside City Alliance in a news release.
“After more than 70 community meetings discussing potential incorporation, it’s now time to move forward and request that the General Assembly allow us a vote to become Georgia’s newest city.”
The analysis was completed by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia. Studies from the same organization have also been used to validate other recent incorporation efforts, including Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Peachtree Corners.
The institute estimated that if created, the city of Lakeside would have annual expenses of $29, 909,347 and total annual revenues of $35,245,527. Revenue estimates were based on property taxes collected in the same area of unincorporated DeKalb in 2012 as well as projections for franchise fees, sales taxes and grant funding. The expenditure estimates were made using the budgets for the cities of Smyrna and Dunwoody, which were selected as comparison cities for the proposed city of Lakeside.
The proposed city would be approximately 20 square miles. The report describes the study area as bounded to the north by I-85, Gwinnett County to the east and North Druid Hills Road to the south. Most of the area is bounded on the east by I-285 north of U.S. 78.
Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, sponsored the bill to create the city of Lakeside last year. Millar said the final borders for the proposed city have not yet been finalized.
There are areas in conflict with proposals for a city of Tucker as well, he said, particularly the Midvale Road, Midvale Elementary and Livsey Elementary precincts.
“Unfortunately trying to get these borders done, I’ve been trying to get these groups together and haven’t been successful,” Millar said.
Millar said he thinks the best way to solve the conflict would be to hold a straw poll for those in the areas in question to gauge interest in joining the city. That would leave the door open for them to annex into the city in the future, if Lakeside is approved.
“We may have a non-binding vote in some of the areas at the same time as we have a vote for the city,” Millar said.
At the same time as Millar filed the bill for Lakeside, several other legislators sponsored cityhood bills around the same area. Millar said he isn’t sure if any of the other cityhood movements will create conflicts for Lakeside when the Legislature reconvenes in January.
“It’s a question of which bills are really bills and which are blocking efforts,” Millar said.
Despite the challenges of competing cityhood efforts and a short legislative session in 2014, Millar said he is optimistic about the Lakeside bill.
“We’ve got some interesting dynamics,” Millar said. “I’m hopeful the Lakeside bill will go forward whatever the boundaries are.”
With a population of approximately 63,000, Lakeside would become the largest city in DeKalb County if incorporated. The population within the study area is 66 percent white, 19 percent black, 9 percent Asian, and about 16 percent Hispanic. The median income is $50,812 and approximately 10 percent of the population lives in poverty.
The area has six existing parks and a total of 190 acres of park land. The estimated cost of operating the parks is $2,169,943.
“Neither of the comparison cities maintains a robust recreation program, relying instead on non-profits to serve this function,” according to the study. “It was assumed a city comprised of the study area would operate similarly.”
The Vinson Institute estimated the city of Lakeside would need 81 police officers. This compares with 46 officers in Dunwoody, with a population of 46,267 and 91 officers in Smyrna, with a population of 51,265. The study estimates a Lakeside police department would have an annual operating budget of $7.8 million.
The institute cautions against reading the feasibility study as a model budget for a new city.
“It is important to note the limitations of these types of studies. They cannot predict every possible variable that may occur in the future with a potential impact on the costs of government,” according to the study.