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.