LaVista Hills, DeKalb Strong, and DeKalb County Cityhood

There’s an election coming up shortly to determine whether or not the new city of LaVista Hills will come into being. The pro-cityhood group, LaVista Hills Yes! and the anti-cityhood group is Dekalb Strong.

One of the vexing issues in cityhood is that under current law, a city that is formed out of a county has no continuing obligation to contribute to the pension plans to support those county workers that have provided services to the area. So a potential resident of LaVista Hills, whose garbage has been regularly collected by a sanitation workers for years, can get out of paying for the costs of those employees even though they’ve enjoyed those services. In the extreme example, you can imagine a county being so carved up into cities that the pension liabilities fall on very few people, which just isn’t fair.

Having said that, it’s not a great argument in a campaign where one of the major electoral issues for many is which result leads to lower taxes.

What is a good argument is that your taxes will be lower. That’s the argument the cityhood folks are making. But is it true?

The Carl Vinson Institute at the University of Georgia did a study on the viability of the city at the behest of the pro-cityhood folks. Their numbers show that the proposed city would operate at a $2 million surplus, thus creating the expectation that LaVista Hills could roll back taxes and still provide all the services their residents expect. The study essentially used the same millage rate and taxes collected by Dekalb, but then ran them against the projected budget of LaVista Hills. But that doesn’t work. First, the city would be limited to 5 mills as a tax rate, not the 7.64 Dekalb currently charges. Part of that would be offset by the HOST credit, but it isn’t clear how much. Saying that LaVista Hills would certainly run a surplus based on that study would seem to be a leap.

Voters will see a ton of mail in the next few weeks. Let’s hope that the messages adhere to the bounds of truth and target what the voters want to hear.


  1. The proposed LVH lacks the commercial base that Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Marietta, and obviously Atlanta have. I think the ratio is somewhere near 75% residential, which is high. The biggest commercial center is the Northlake Mall area, but even that is divided between LVH and proposed Tucker. I am voting no in part because I don’t want to bet my local government’s financial future on Northlake mall. No offense Northlake, of course.

    There are a lot of contradictions with LVH. The (mostly Republican) people who back it normally hate higher taxes but hate the people who run DeKalb even more now that they are seemingly willing to stomach them in this case. The (mostly Democrats) who oppose it would probably soon run it if it comes into existence, seeing as Obama got 58% in the city, which means that big government would likely flourish sooner than later (see every other city in existence for an example of that happening, Brookhaven already spends 27% more than the Vinson institute estimated 3 years ago).

    Other irony – in order to survive the new city would have to embrace many of the things that supporters hate and are hoping to get rid of by taking over zoning – things like apartments, non-cookie cutter businesses etc. Gotta pay the bills, and that makes people more pragmatic than they think. If LVH passes, the P Card abuses of the county will seem like small potatoes to the new taxpayers of LaVista Hills.

    • Don Broussard says:

      Some interesting observations by Huttman — from which he draws absolutely idiotic conclusions. Huttman ignores years of documented Pcard abuses by DeKalb politicians (of both parties) and constructs imaginary abuses by people not yet even running for office in LaVista Hills. Northlake Mall won’t be a mall in 10 years — it is a future development site like Avalon in Alpharetta (same for North DeKalb Mall) . It doesn’t matter what the commercial ratio is — LaVista Hills has a $2.6 billion tax digest — slightly bigger than Brookhaven’s. Most cities in Georgia would give their left “arm” to have that tax base— so the sustainability of the city is NOT in question. Yes, 57% voted for Obama — Huttman somehow sees that as a “contradiction” because it does not fit his simplistic partisan view that new cities must be Republican gated communities. The reality is that DeKalb County’s government is a corruption train wreck — and the Democratic legislative delegation sees job one is to protect the status quo. DeKalb’s planning department is, arguably, the most incompetent and most corrupt in the entire state — 6 directors in 12 years — no stability. DeKalb’s development strategy consists of rezonings for fast food restaurants, night clubs, a casino (in south DeKalb), and soccer fields by the county jail. Huttman, is clueless. On Tuesday, we will find out if north DeKalb Democrats have decided to become the “party of the status quo” and continue government by Lee May, Sharon Barnes Sutton, Jeff Rader, and Stan Watson — or at least, until they get indicted.

      • Scott65 says:

        Not much I disagree with about Dekalb government, but ultimately its the residents of the county who are at fault since we keep electing the same people because nobody takes the time to actually look at whats going on. Waiting 3 months for a sign permit doesnt affect most people unless you are opening a business.
        Now about LVH…you do realize that any new city is still going to depend on the county for lots of services, and to think that the county will make any of these cities a priority for anything is beyond wishful thinking. If they are corrupt enough to do some of things they’ve already done…thats just small potatoes.
        Also. why does someone’s opinion with which you disagree have to be “idiotic”. He raises some good points about the pensions. Some stuff I think is irrelevant (like the 57% Obama stuff), but its opinion. You make good points. Why lower them by using that kind of insulting language.

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