STOCKBRIDGE — Leaders of the Eagle’s Landing Educational Research Committee ensured attendees at its informational meeting Thursday that there will be no tax increase for those living in the proposed city of Eagle’s Landing boundaries if approved.
“Raising taxes is not our goal,” said Vikki Consiglio, chair of the ELERC. The 5-member committee formed in January as a nonprofit education group to advocate for the incorporation of a new city in Henry County. “The board will not move forward if there is a tax increase.”
Instead of raising taxes, Consiglio said the proposed 12-square mile city would plan to use franchise fee revenues to fund its operations. A city, unlike a county, has authority to collect franchise fees. She referenced her cable bill, which bills her $5 in franchise fees every month.
In addition, the city would receive business tax fees, and a portion of state collected taxes that are currently split between Henry County and its four cities.
“We’re already paying franchise fees, we just don’t get to use it now,” she said.
Since the Eagle’s Landing area has the highest per capita income in Henry County, according to an Atlanta Regional Commission study, Consiglio said that would be an opportunity for the proposed city to attract high-end restaurants and businesses, which is one of the reasons the group is seeking cityhood.
Community identity, local control over land use and development and local accountability of elected officials are just some of the other reasons the group is seeking cityhood for its community.
Because the Eagle’s Landing Country Club, home to some of Henry County’s wealthiest residents, is in the proposed city boundary, Consiglio argued against speculation that the movement is an effort of “elitists” trying to take over a community.
Consiglio said current plans for the city is to have four council members and a mayor, with the council members each representing a district. The districts were divided based on population among the approximately 17,000 people in the proposed area, about 40 percent black and 35 percent white, according to Consiglio. Two of the districts split the Eagle’s Landing Country Club.
Georgia code requires municipalities to provide at least three services to its residents, either directly or by contract. Consiglio said the city plans to provide its own parks and recreation, zoning, and code enforcement because those topics are the most widely discussed in the area. The elected officials of the city would determine further services that are needed on a local level as opposed to the county level.
The new city could have a negative impact, such as a loss of tax base, on surrounding cities or the county.
A feasibility study is currently underway by the Andrew Young School of Public Policy to determine the financial impact of all affected entities. The study will determine whether the boundaries need to be adjusted based on potential income and expenses, said Consiglio.
“At that time the board can determine if further action will be necessary to increase or decrease the proposed city area,” said Consiglio. “The board will not favor incorporating if there is no other alternative other than an increase in property taxes.”
If Georgia legislators authorize the creation of the new city, it could be voted on as early as November. If approved by voters, the city’s election for city council would be held in 2018, with the city going into effect in 2019.
Consiglio encouraged those who support the movement to contact state legislators to ask for an opportunity for the citizens to vote.
“It all comes down to what the citizens want,” said Consiglio.
The one-hour event held at Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church, appeared to have confused some of its attendees who thought they would have an opportunity for a question and answer period. But the committee’s leaders said the meeting, advertised as a “public educational forum for a presentation,” was for informational purposes only. The committee solicited questions on its website and social media accounts prior to the meeting in order to have most questions answered through the committee’s presentation, ELERC members indicated to the crowd.
Sen. Emmanuel Jones, who represents a majority of the proposed area, approached the stage to speak against the proposal due to concerns of how the proposed city is separating and de-annexing land from the city of Stockbridge.
He was cut short by the board, however, after it appeared he was planning to make a presentation himself. He later told the Herald the proposal, if approved, would create an “illegal city.”
“We’ve never seen a city form from de-annexing land from another city. About 35 percent (of the proposed map) is from Stockbridge,” said Jones. “If we take all these commercial bases it would take away all those revenues from Stockbridge. (Stockbridge) has obligations. During the meeting I noticed they never mentioned the word Stockbridge and that they would be taking property from Stockbridge.”
Jones plans to speak more on his opposition Saturday during Henry County District V Commissioner Bruce Holmes’s townhall meeting. The meeting will be held at 10 a.m. at Global Impact Christian Ministries, 125 Red Oak Road in Stockbridge.
The discussion will focus on the de-annexation of commercial corridors within the city of Stockbridge and the impact to Stockbridge’s tax base. Other speakers include Georgia Representatives Demetrius Douglas, Sandra Scott and Pam Stephenson, along with officials from the city of Stockbridge.