Here in metro Atlanta, there has been a movement to create new cities where none existed before. The stated reasons? Lower taxes and increased local control. In the spirit of local control, Georgia has 159 counties and I don’t see where that has worked out so well. Honestly, I haven’t paid all that much attention as cities like Johns Creek, Sandy Springs and Dunwoody have appeared. But now, it would appear, my home and my university may be slated to become part of the newest Georgia city, Brookhaven. Trust me, I live in the neighborhood of Brookhaven and it ain’t no city. I tend to be suspicious of politics and politicians and I do have my suspicions of this movement. I am open to being proved wrong, but it is my sense that all these new cities will be a whole lot less diverse than the “place” I lived before – DeKalb County. That’s my sense anyway. (I just did find one statistic for John’s Creek – in 2007, that new city was 7.5% African American. In the same year, DeKalb County was 55%. I guess my sense was not so far off). By the way, on the tax front, the residents of the new city of Brookhaven will continue to pay DeKalb County taxes (as well as Brookhaven City taxes). I suspect county taxes will rise even faster than they would have otherwise as a good chunk of the its tax base disappears. We will see.
There was, of course, a study commissioned to look at all this. One problem with that study is that the boundaries of the new city changed after the study was completed. I wondered why someone hadn’t asked for the study to be revised, so I called a friend at UGA where the original study had been done. Lo and behold, there actually was a revised study, but the leader of the new city movement not only hadn’t chosen to release it, he declined to tell anyone he had asked for and gotten new results. Wonder why am I am suspicious? As you might imagine, the complete results of the study don’t show quite as rosy a picture as the original study. But then again, the vote has now taken place and the new city won (winning in this case means there will be a vote in a special election this summer where at least three or four people typically make it to the polls).
The “no new city” folks, of which I am one, have lots of data to show the likelihood of an overall reduction in taxes and fees is awful slim. That’s what I would have assumed even without all their good data, but then again, I never believed this was about taxes from the start.