Unsurprisingly, both sides are split on the abstract municipality’s potential revenue streams — or where the money to pay for services would come from.
With the July 31 referendum fast approaching, parties on both sides of the debate offer conflicting projections regarding an incorporated Brookhaven’s initial property tax haul.
Officials at advocacy group BrookhavenYES maintain property taxes make up only one quarter of all revenue the city would take in.
“Within the Brookhaven boundaries, we have a very healthy mix of commercial and residential property,” said BrookhavenYES President J. Max Davis. “Our commercial base makes up nearly 30 percent of Brookhaven’s total property tax base, which is greater than the roughly 21 percent commercial property tax base for the rest of unincorporated DeKalb.”
The next largest portion of revenue will come from Brookhaven’s Homestead Option Sales Tax (HOST). The proposed city’s “healthy” residential component would give it a greater share of a HOST allocation than Dunwoody, Davis said.
Among the detractors of Brookhaven incorporation, the No City Brookhaven committee has emerged as perhaps the most visible.
Leaders of the No City Brookhaven committee scoff at any comparison between their proposed city and recently incorporated neighbor Dunwoody.
Brookhaven’s ratio of commercial to residential property is currently 27 to 73 percent, whereas the ratio for Dunwoody — with its expansive office space sub-market — is 40 to 60, said No City’s Carolyn Benton.
“[Moreover], we’re walled in by Sandy Springs, Chamblee and Dunwoody, so we have very little room to expand or increase density to sustain us and pay for services,” Benton said.
Brookhaven’s cityhood architects will undoubtedly look to emulate Dunwoody’s fiscal resiliency, if approved on referendum day.
“Staff has done an excellent job being conservative with our projections for both revenues and expenditures,” said Dunwoody Finance Director Chris Pike. “Each year since incorporation, our expenditures are under budget while our revenues come in over budget.
“And, second, [city] council has worked carefully and methodically to increase the services provided to the citizens only as our revenue sources began to materialize.”
Should the referendum go in cityhood proponents’ favor, the matter of deciding on locations for Brookhaven’s city hall and downtown areas is still up for discussion.
“Some residents have suggested leasing space at the former Harris Teeter on Peachtree [Boulevard],” said Davis, acknowledging that conversation is premature.
“To me leasing seems like the most prudent option,” he noted.