Emory to become part of Atlanta but the battle over tax pennies isn’t over


After more than a year of negotiations, Emory University’s annexation into the City of Atlanta is moving forward. The Atlanta City Council approved the annexation of Dec. 4 and it will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.

Now, 744 acres of DeKalb County that include Emory University, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Georgia Power Co., Villa International, Synod of South Atlantic & Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Centers for Disease Control will now be under the control of Atlanta instead of DeKalb County.

In 2016, Emory University requested to be annexed into the City of Atlanta, meaning Atlanta would have to provide services at the same level the city already does for current residents and property owners.

After the vote, Emory’s President released a statement saying “Working together, Emory University and the City of Atlanta will continue building a stronger future for neighborhoods across the metropolitan area. We enter this new stage of our relationship with enthusiasm and great optimism for what lies ahead,” Claire E. Sterk said.

She said this annexation doesn’t mean the University is “leaving DeKalb County.”

“We remain steadfastly committed to our colleagues and neighbors in county leadership and beyond. Alongside the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the other entities involved in annexation, we will pursue our shared mission of serving the common good in the greater metropolitan area and well beyond.”

However, the DeKalb County superintendent called an expansion to include school boundaries in the annexation a “power grab” and a “broken promise” because school boundaries were not initially included. In August 2016, the university said in a press release “Annexation of Emory into the City of Atlanta will not affect school districts since neighboring communities like Druid Hills will still be self-determining regarding annexation.”

In a statement, Superintendent Stephen Green said, “the expansion is irrelevant and unnecessary: it was not included in the original plan and was shoehorned in at the 11th hour.”

“The expansion is about money: the change in boundaries impacts just 10 students yet will strip $2.5 million in vital resources from DCSD. The expansion is about power: APS’ legislative agenda is to use annexations as a springboard to slice swaths of resources from its eastern neighbors,” he said.

It means the DeKalb school system will no longer be able to tax any of the property in the annexation – about 744 acres off the DeKalb tax rolls.

Instead, Atlanta Public Schools will get to tax all of this property. And it is property that is worth $2.5 million a year in school-tax revenue – money that Atlanta schools will get instead of DeKalb.

It’s just a tiny fraction of each school system’s budget but it is money that DeKalb School Superintendent Green says DeKalb children can’t afford to lose.

“We need every penny that we can muster,” he said.

So Green says he’s not just going to sit back and let the annexation of all this property by Atlanta happen without a fight.

“All options are on the table, including legal,” he said.

On Monday, just before the Atlanta City Council voted 13-0 in favor of annexing the DeKalb properties, DeKalb parents pleaded that they let the properties stay within the DeKalb School District.

“What this really does is this takes resources from our community,” resident Lance Hammonds said.

The argument is that DeKalb County has twice as many students as Atlanta but, proportionally, a smaller budget.

“$2.5 million per year taken from our school district that we need for our families and for our schools and for our students,” Green said. “All options are on the table and we’re prepared to pursue those aggressively and assertively.”

Green expects the DeKalb School Board will decide on those options to fight for every potentially-lost penny within the next few weeks – in soon-to-be Atlanta.

On the annexation, Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Meria Carstarphen released this statement.

“We appreciate and support the Atlanta City Council for voting to annex Emory University as part of the city’s expansion,” said Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen. “We are pleased to see Atlanta continue to grow, and we are excited that outstanding institutions like Emory University, the CDC, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta will now be a part of the City. Atlanta Public Schools is prepared to participate in this growth and any future growth. Our APS Charter, and approximately 145 years of precedent, established that our boundaries must remain coterminous with the boundaries of the City of Atlanta. We look forward to serving all children who reside in our city.”

© 2017 WXIA



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