DeKalb County studies impact of new, expanding cities

A first-of-its kind study in DeKalb County will analyze the impact that cities have on county services and finances.

A steering committee consisting of legislators, county officials and city leaders met for the first time Wednesday, spending most of the time debating what should be included in the report due in December. The county will pay the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government $84,000 for the study.

The municipalization movement that began in Fulton County in 2005 has also taken off in DeKalb, which now has 12 cities and two more under consideration.

Rep. Karla Drenner and Sen. Elena Parent both insisted the study include data on the impact if virtually all of DeKalb becomes incorporated, similar to what has occurred in Fulton County. There, every residential neighborhood is within a city and only a small industrial area is unincorporated.

Proposals to create the cities of Vista Grove in central DeKalb and Greenhaven, which would take up nearly all of the county’s bottom half, have divided residents who lobby lawmakers heavily. Legislators don’t have impartial data to help them decide what to do when cityhood bills are filed, Drenner said.

“Every year we go into session; we are caught in the middle,” she said.

The Vinson Institute will study the long-term effects that cityhood has on existing county services and tax rates, and it will analyze the best way for existing cities to annex homes and businesses from unincorporated DeKalb.

The contract could be extended if the committee decides it wants additional analysis that requires work beyond December. The members of the committee include four legislators, three county officials and three from the cities. They are:

  • Sen. Emanuel Jones, D-Decatur, Senate delegation chair
  • Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta
  • Rep. Karla Drenner, D-Avondale Estates, House delegation chair
  • Rep. Renita Shannon, D-Decatur
  • Zach Williams, DeKalb chief operating officer
  • T.J. Sigler, DeKalb budget director
  • Delores Crowell, DeKalb government affairs director
  • Peggy Merriss, former Decatur city manager
  • Plez Joyner, Stonecrest deputy city manager
  • Christian Sigman, Brookhaven city manager