DeKalb Schools Sue Atlanta for Annexation Process

DeKalb County School District (DCSD) filed a lawsuit against the City of Atlanta Dec. 29 in an attempt to stop the annexation of two previously unincorporated streets into the city of Atlanta.

More than 70 percent of University Drive and Spring Valley Lane residents signed a petition to annex homes into Atlanta August 2016, according to petition filer Darin Engle. After Engle filed the petition, the city approved the petition and formally annexed 58 residences and one synagogue Dec. 1, 2016.

Engle said the petition received overwhelming support from residents. Annexations in Atlanta require two sets of signatures: one from 60 percent of residents and the other from 60 percent of registered voters in the proposed area. Engle reported that each category received more than 70 percent approval.

DCSD did not respond to requests for comment, but the lawsuit states the district will lose tax revenue.

“The annexation removes properties from DeKalb Schools’ taxable territory, which deprives DeKalb Schools of its entitlement to funding to support and maintain the public education system in DeKalb County,” the lawsuit said.

Taxpayers in the annexed area are now contributing toward Atlanta Public Schools (APS) and paying off DCSD’s previously accrued bond debt. Students currently attending DCSD schools, however, must transfer to APS schools at the end of the 2016-17 school year.

This marks the first time DCSD has challenged annexation through the court system — other neighborhoods have been annexed since 2014 without protest. DCSD had threatened litigation in a 2014 superintendent’s report for neighborhoods that attempted to be annexed into Atlanta.

The lawsuit, filed in Fulton County Superior Court, claims that Atlanta’s annexation procedure did not follow Georgia state law. Additionally, DCSD claimed in the lawsuit that the “due process clauses” of the Georgia Constitution and U.S. Constitution were violated because DCSD’s equal rights to other governmental organizations were deprived. DCSD says it could not adequately present objections to the annexation to residents of the previously unincorporated streets.

However, to help residents and other community members understand what would happen under the annexation, the community held regular meetings starting November 2015, according to Engle. He said the meetings were intended to be transparent with the community. DCSD school board member Marshall Orson, DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader, Atlanta councilmember Alex Wan and several representatives from the Atlanta Mayor’s office attended some of those meetings, Engle said.

Emory announced September 2016 it would seek annexation into Atlanta. University representatives said introducing long-term transit improvements was a priority, and annexation into Atlanta would make funding a Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) station near Emory easier, according to a Sept. 27, 2016 Wheel article.

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