DeKalb Schools Sue to Reverse Emory Annexation Into Atlanta

The DeKalb County School District (DCSD) is suing Atlanta to invalidate Emory’s annexation into the city, which cost the school district about $2.5 million in property tax revenue.

DCSD alleges that the Atlanta City Council violated the city’s charter by allowing the petition to be approved without sufficient time for review and critique, according to a lawsuit filed on Monday in the Superior Court of Fulton County.

In December 2017, the Atlanta City Council approved the annexation of 744 acres, which included Emory, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA). The legislation also established that school district boundaries for the area would change from DCSD to Atlanta Public Schools (APS) on July 1. Although only about seven to nine students reside in the annexed area, about $2.5 million in property tax revenue goes to the district that serves the area, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

DCSD is seeking an immediate injunction against the school district boundary change and to reverse the entire annexation ordinance. The lawsuit was filed after APS declined to work together to resolve the dispute, according to a DCSD statement emailed to the Wheel on June 5.

DCSD said that the initial annexation plan called for no change in district boundaries, but the Atlanta City Council proposed and passed an “11th hour change” to the legislation that changed the boundaries. The changes came soon after APS threatened to oppose the annexation ordinance if it did not change the school district boundary terms, according to the DCSD statement.

The quick change did not allow sufficient time for DCSD or the public to “understand the intent and effect of the legislation,” DCSD said.

An Atlanta spokesperson did not immediately respond to request for comment regarding the lawsuit. Emory’s Associate Vice President of Health Sciences Communications Vince Dollard declined to comment on the lawsuit, noting that Emory is a civic partner to the City of Atlanta and DeKalb County.

APS Executive Director Of Communications and Public Engagement Ian Smith wrote in a June 5 email to the Wheel that expanding school district boundaries have typically occurred in conjunction with Atlanta’s prior annexations.

“Our Charter requires that APS’ borders must expand coterminous with the City’s borders each time new territory is annexed, supporting 145 years of precedent,” Smith wrote. “We remain committed to serving all children who reside in our city and preparing them to graduate ready for college and career.”

DCSD initially supported the annexation on the grounds that school district boundaries would not change, according to the lawsuit.

“DCSD not only did not object to the Emory Annexation, but affirmatively supported the annexation since it would not negatively affect DCSD’s student population or taxable property base,” the lawsuit reads.

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