FAQs (FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS)
1. What is the size and population of Greenhaven?
Proposed Greenhaven is 123.35 square miles. Its estimated population as of 2015 was 295,000 people.
2. What services will you provide? Why were these services chosen?
a. Greenhaven will start with 3 services – Code Enforcement, Zoning and Planning, and Parks and Recreation. These services are important to economic development and quality of life for citizens.
b. The 3 services selected had the best cost-benefit ratio and the potential impacts, particularly for economic development, were very important.
c. New cities have up to 2 years to determine any additional services they want to provide.
3. Will I pay twice for the same service?
No. A taxpayer pays only once for each service.
4. Why are you not taking on police? Can Greenhaven improve on what the county is offering now?
Greenhaven is not taking on Police Services as one of its initial services. The Greenhaven Team was advised to hire safety experts to conduct a study to determine what best practices exist for Greenhaven’s local environment. Otherwise, it could probably only offer existing levels of service.
5. Why do you want to form a city?
a. Southern DeKalb needs and wants economic development. Counties were created to deliver basic services (courts, health, and welfare) ; cities were created to deliver economic development and other services.
b. Forming the proposed city of Greenhaven represents an opportunity to move to a culture of productivity and service excellence that has not been provided by the county to south DeKalb.
c. A city structure such as Greenhaven will be more accountable to its citizens than the county structure where 4 Commissioners and the CEO (the majority of our elected leaders) make decisions about an area in which they do not live.
d. Not least, the current situation has residents in unincorporated DeKalb subsidizing citizens in cities elsewhere within DeKalb County.
6. Why is the city so large? Why not start with a smaller city?
a. First and foremost, a large city like Greenhaven helps keep property taxes low because of population size.
b. Due to the underdevelopment of south DeKalb, a large city can bring together the necessary resources to help leverage Greenhaven’s natural resources and assets to effectively compete in the region.
c. A large city has to be taken into consideration for regional planning. For example, Greenhaven will be at the table when large projects such as MARTA are discussed.
d. A smaller city with the current level of development in south DeKalb has a higher likelihood of tax increases if additional services are added.
e. Of the 4 options explored (status quo, form a smaller city, form a large city, or annex into the City of Atlanta), residents preferred the benefits of a large city when compared to the other options.
7. How will you start a new large city? Will the new city control the startup?
a. The new city will be assisted by a third party (to be selected) that will have experience in helping cities start up.
b. The Mayor and City Council will have ultimate decision making for the new city not the third party.
8. How did you come up with the name Greenhaven?
The name Greenhaven emerged after a 3 month deliberative process that included community members and members of the Greenhaven Team. The color GREEN is associated with sustainable life and economic development. HAVEN was chosen because it suggests a place where all life (human life in particular) is valued, safe and protected. The city of Greenhaven shall be a place where human creativity, accountability, productivity, economic development and responsibility lives.
9. What happens to the CEO and Commissioners when the City forms?
County government will continue to exist as will the CEO and the Commissioners.
10. What advantages do cities have over counties?
a. When the city forms, you will get 100% benefit from the taxes you pay. Currently, taxes such as SPLOST paid by unincorporated DeKalb residents get shared amongst all the citizens of the county while taxes paid by city residents stay within the city.
b. Greenhaven has an advantage over the county because it advocates, supports and provides technical assistance to a unique citizen participation model known as Community Area Planning Units (CAPUs), a model started by Mayor Maynard Jackson to give residents another way to participate in local government.
c. Greenhaven offers additional advantages such as a more responsive local government – 1 Councilperson to 49,000 residents (instead of 1 Commissioner to 140,000 residents) and representatives from the CAPU system.
d. Greenhaven has several better-government measures – term limits of 2 four-year terms, an ethics board with citizen appointments, and an external audit.
e. By forming Greenhaven, the residents of Greenhaven can negotiate an arrangement that will relieve unincorporated residents from bearing a disproportionate share of DeKalb County’s unfunded pension liability.
f. It is significantly easier for a city to offer a municipal bond than a county because its area is more defined and all citizens benefit.
g. The economic benefits afforded by cities are addressed in a separate question that follows.
11. What can the city do that the county cannot in terms of economic development?
a. Greenhaven will have a DEDICATED office focused on optimizing economic development opportunities EXCLUSIVELY for the city of Greenhaven. DeKalb County has not produced any economic development exclusively for or consistent with the opportunities available to south DeKalb.
b. Greenhaven has an economic vision and plan specific to and focused on Greenhaven (see Economic Development Vision in the "About" section).
c. Due to its size, resources and revenue, Greenhaven has leverage to negotiate important projects, infrastructure, and incentives that will affect economic development. Although the county is supposed to treat all areas equally resulting in equal development, there exists economic inequity between north and south. Greenhaven will have the capacity to address the economic inequity.
d. Greenhaven can form its own Development Authority to assist in creating economic opportunities and providing financing. There has been no significant effort to promote the area proposed as Greenhaven or to develop the resources it has to attract businesses. A traditional economic development plan was done by the County that has not been implemented.
e. Municipalities have the advantage of having more revenue sources available to them because structurally municipalities can be held accountable in situations where counties can not.
COMMUNITY AREA PLANNING UNITS (CAPUS)
12. What are CAPUs and why are they important?
a. CAPU stands for Community Area Planning Unit. CAPUs are based on the Neighborhood Planning Unit model in the City of Atlanta developed by Mayor Maynard Jackson to incorporate official resident input into government decision making.
b. CAPUs are important because they allow for greater democratic participation and representation on the local, neighborhood level. They give residents 2 opportunities for their voices to be heard – through their City Councilperson and on their neighborhood level regarding concerns that cities may not deal with such as education.
c. Greenhaven is the only new city to incorporate a strong local level resident participation model.
13. How are CAPUs different from Community Councils in DeKalb County?
a. CAPUs differ from current Community Councils in several ways:
i. Community Council members are appointed by the governing authority (DeKalb County Commissioners). CAPU members are elected by their neighbors.
ii. CAPUs will receive administrative support, technical assistance and training from the City of Greenhaven. Community Councils do not receive such administrative support.
iii. CAPUs can appoint members to the Ethics Board. Community Council members only recommend.
iv. Community Councils primarily provide recommendations on planning. CAPUs can provide recommendations on planning and other issues affecting their CAPU such as education and safety.
14. Will vulnerable populations such as seniors be displaced as property values rise?
The Greenhaven charter provides for limits, freezes, discounts and/or other allowances to protect vulnerable populations such as seniors from higher tax bills prompted by rising property values.
15. What is Greenhaven’s position regarding K-12 school education?
a. K-12 education will remain under the scope and direction of the DeKalb Board of Education.
b. Greenhaven supports emphasis on:
i. STEAM (Science, Technology, Education, Arts and Math)
ii. Vocational Training
c. Greenhaven will work with the DeKalb Board of Education to supplement its efforts, particularly in the above two areas, in any way on which the two entities can mutually agree.
d. By forming a city within DeKalb County, the DeKalb Board of Education will be further protected from encroachments upon borders, students and funds.
LITTER AND BEAUTIFICATION
16. What are Greenhaven’s positions on litter and beautification?
a. Presenting an attractive, maintained landscape is important to economic development.
b. Key areas, such as common, commercial areas should be maintained and kept litter free on an ongoing, continuous basis.
c. With input from and support from the CAPUs, Greenhaven will adopt a tougher stance on litter.
17. What are Greenhaven’s position on parks and golf courses?
e. Recreational facilities such as parks and golf courses have historically been important components in making south DeKalb an attractive site for homeowners and they continue to be so. Greenhaven, with the assistance of its CAPUs will support their maintenance.
f. Once an area meets site location requirements, companies often decide where to move based on amenities and quality of life considerations. Greenhaven will make every effort to maintain quality parks, recreational areas and public golf courses.
ROADS AND POTHOLES
18. What is Greenhaven’s position regarding roads and potholes?
a. Roads and Potholes – The new city will be responsible for roads.
b. In 2017, residents of Greenhaven approved a SPLOST retail sales tax to fund road repaving and pothole repairs. Upon Greenhaven’s approval, the SPLOST funds that go for road maintenance, infrastructure projects and parks & recreation facilities should be transferred to the city and used within Greenhaven borders.
19. Can predominantly Black cities be successful?
a. YES. A study conducted by Dr. Leora Waldner of 44 majority-minority cities (cities with over 50% Black, Hispanic or Asian populations) created between 1990-2010 found that 42 of the 44 cities were financially solvent – their budget revenues met or exceeded costs.
b. A further case study analysis of 4 cities chosen by stratified selection revealed significant improvements in each of the cities ranging from economic development to safety and education.
20. What is a feasibility study?
The feasibility study seeks to determine whether the services to be provided by a proposed city along with the necessary administrative support can be adequately funded by the revenues that would be available. Put more simply, the feasibility study estimates whether Greenhaven will take in enough revenue to pay for its expenses (including operational and startup expenses).
21. What were the results of the feasibility study conducted on Greenhaven?
The Carl Vinson Institute estimated the following:
Total Annual Revenue: $45,611,418
Total Annual Expenses: $18,434,437
Amount of Revenue
Exceeding Expenses $27,176,981
22. What will you do with the estimated $27 million surplus?
The feasibility study represents estimates. It will take a year or better to figure out actual costs and revenues that will then determine next steps. The new city can then consider taking on more services. The following is Imagine Greenhaven’s perspective.
a. Greenhaven should maintain a financial philosophy of fiscal conservatism. That includes a balanced budget, capital reserves, and underwriting a campaign for economic development.
b. Greenhaven should always work very hard to keep costs and taxes at a minimal level.
c. From the beginning, Greenhaven should focus on economic development by establishing an Office of Economic Development (included in the charter). Greenhaven is also able to establish a Development Authority.
d. Greenhaven will have a community involvement component known as Community Area Planning Units (CAPUs) that are authorized by the Charter. CAPUs are to be supported by the new city.
e. Greenhaven would like to supplement education efforts within its boundaries. Some actions have been discussed but such actions are not guaranteed.
23. Are police services included in the feasibility study’s costs?
No. The revenue to pay for police comes primarily from property taxes. The proportion of property taxes that pay for police will stay with the county until those services are transitioned to the city of Greenhaven. The plan is to take on police but it is not a guarantee until the new government decides it will do so.
24. Are the expenses in the feasibility study just for 3 services or do they include overall operating costs?
They include overall operating costs such as
a. Municipal courts
b. City clerk
c. City attorney
e. Finance department
f. Human resources
g. Community and Economic development
h. Mayor and City Councilmember salaries
25. Will Greenhaven acquire the parks within its boundaries? Is that cost included in the feasibility study?
Yes? The estimated cost in the feasibility study to purchase the existing parks within Greenhaven boundaries is $225,000.
26. The amount of property taxes Greenhaven will receive seems low. Why?
With a population of 294,000 residents, Greenhaven will receive only $414,000 in property taxes. This is low because the bulk of our property taxes will remain with the county to pay for police, fire and safety.
27. How does the least commercially developed area in DeKalb County end up with more revenue surplus than wealthier cities?
Cities have revenue sources that counties do not have such as franchise fees. Franchise fees are fees paid by utility companies (cable, electric, natural gas, and phone) for public right of ways. Because of the size of our population and franchise fees are based on population, the result is a large revenue source. This is mostly a new revenue source and takes little away from the county.
28. What are franchise fees? Are they taxes?
Franchise fees are the fees that utility companies pay to local governments to have access or “right-of-way” to each property serviced by that utility. Counties cannot charge franchise fees. Therefore, franchise fees represent a separate source of revenues for cities that do not adversely affect counties. Franchise fees are not taxes. Cities charge companies for access to properties. It is up to the utility company as to whether they will pass the charge on to their customer.
29. How will the franchise fees affect our utility bills? Will they cause them to rise? Past history shows the utilities and cable companies pass the cost on; however, it has amounted to less than 2%-4% of the electric bill of city customers (e.g., if your bill is $100/month, your increase will be less than $2/month) and 5% for cable companies (e.g., if your bill is $150/month, your increase will be $7.50/ month). The franchise fees for natural gas customers are spread over all Atlanta Gas Light customers for the cost of doing business. Thus, any increase will be minimal.
30. Will our taxes rise as a result of forming a new city?
Property taxes are calculated from millage rates (which are based on the appraisal of your homes). There is no reason to expect tax increases as a result of Greenhaven becoming a city. Of the four cities that have formed in DeKalb County, none have raised taxes since they started. Dunwoody and Brookhaven took on the millage rates for police that their residents were already paying while Stonecrest and Tucker decided they were not offering police. Thus, none of the citizens in those 4 cities have experienced a property tax increase as a result of the city forming. Dunwoody has not raised its rates since it formed in 2008; Brookhaven’s rates have gone down since it formed in 2013; and Tucker and Stonecrest have 0 millage rates.
31. What do you mean that residents in unincorporated DeKalb subsidize citizens elsewhere within DeKalb County?
By law, counties cannot treat one part of its population different from other parts. It's not supposed to treat the north different from the south or city residents different from unincorporated residents. When cities get tax revenue, they spend it within their borders. Revenue from unincorporated residents goes to the County and the County must equally spend it on all residents. Therefore, a part of each tax dollar from a resident in unincorporated DeKalb pays for services and/or equipment that benefit city residents while the money that goes to cities does not get shared with unincorporated DeKalb.