APS, DeKalb annexation deal could pay for six school health clinics

Emory University, the CDC and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta are being annexed into the city of Atlanta. The city’s 744-acre expansion grows it eastward into DeKalb County.

Credit: Robert Dibrell

Credit: Robert Dibrell

Emory University, the CDC and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta are being annexed into the city of Atlanta. The city’s 744-acre expansion grows it eastward into DeKalb County.

The Atlanta and DeKalb school districts have resolved a dispute over 744 acres annexed into the city — a pact that would use property tax dollars to open six school-based health clinics in DeKalb.

In late 2017, the City of Atlanta approved the annexation of property around Emory University. At the time, officials said fewer than 10 public school students were living in the area. The DeKalb district sued, seeking to retain the students and property tax revenue the annexation would have given to Atlanta Public Schools.  

A settlement the Atlanta school board approved last week calls for the Atlanta and DeKalb districts to evenly split an estimated $2.7 million in annual property tax revenue collected from the annexed area for five years. A DeKalb district spokeswoman said the agreement was signed Tuesday.

DeKalb would use its $1.35 million annual share to open health clinics at six schools, according to a copy of the agreement obtained from APS.

During those five years, students who live in the annexed area will attend DeKalb schools. Beginning in 2024, students will attend Atlanta schools and APS will collect all of the tax revenue from the area.

“We are pleased with the outcome because it resolves this annexation dispute, provides certainty for stakeholders, and recognizes APS’ consistent position that APS’ boundaries are coterminous with the city’s,” said Atlanta superintendent Meria Carstarphen, in a written statement. “Further, APS has retained full autonomy to determine how to use its revenue in the best interests of its students, employees, and taxpayers through our budget process.”

The six DeKalb school health clinics would open over a five-year period and be operated by Emory, according to the documents.

In future years, the clinics could be supported through insurance revenue from caring for patients, and the university would try to secure grants and other funding to continue their operation.

The idea is to provide better health care access to vulnerable families and improve student attendance. The DeKalb district already has health clinics at several elementary schools.

Emory would be in charge of building, equipping and staffing the clinics. At least three full-time medical staff would work at each one.

The clinics would diagnose and treat illnesses and minor injuries and provide health screenings and immunizations, among other services.

DeKalb school officials would decide where to locate the clinics, and provide up to 1,400 square feet of space in the schools for each clinic. The first two clinics would open next school year, the district said in a written statement.

The agreement states that Emory will not submit an application to annex university property into the city for three years. If, however, Emory does have property annexed into the city, the university would pay the school health clinic program the equivalent amount of property taxes that would have otherwise been collected by DeKalb schools for the remainder of a three-year period.

An Emory spokeswoman did not answer questions about the agreement by deadline Tuesday.

As part of the agreement, the DeKalb school district would also get about $44,000 in tax revenue for the 2018 tax year, according to APS.