Is the proposed city of South Fulton financially viable?
Some say yes, and point to a 2014 Georgia State University study that confirms their belief.
Others point to the wide swath of annexations occurring after the 2014 study was produced, and say no . . .
Since the South Fulton cityhood movement was revived in 2013, after a six year hiatus, registered voters and property owners have flooded local municipalities with annexation petitions in an effort to beat the 1 July 2016 deadline before South Fulton's borders are locked for the November referendum.
In a report to the Fulton County Commission late last year, county staff put a hard count on the amount of unincorporated south Fulton land lost to annexation. Fulton County received ten petitions for annexations from five different cities, accounting for nearly 9.6% of the land in unincorporated south Fulton. That amount adds up to 2,480 people and 6,275 acres. These numbers do not include the annexation petitions recently received by Atlanta, Chattahoochee Hills, and College Park.
Given these numbers, some are questioning whether the proposed city of South Fulton is still viable.
An exchange with cityhood skeptics on the South Fulton United Facebook page (pictured right) seemed to dismiss the impact of annexations.
"Petitions don't mean a thing until they are approved," South Fulton United posted. "But guess what? Whether Publix and those Cascade businesses goe [sic] to Atlanta or not we get their money without having to spend city resources to provide fire and police for the area. So its a win win. We don't have to provide services, but we still get revenue because we will be one of the 3 required signatures for LOST."
Dr. Peter Bluestone, Senior Research Associate with the Fiscal Research Center at Georgia State University, says it's a bit more complicated than that.
"Cities do have flexibility," Dr. Bluestone said. "Once a city is incorporated, they obviously have choices on their level of taxation and on their level of services to be provided; and they can change that mix.
Bluestone, along with Dr. John Matthews, authored the 2014 Report on the City of South Fulton: Potential Revenues and Expenditures.
"Based on these estimates and given the assumptions that are detailed in this report, we find that the City of South Fulton is financially feasible," the report reads.
In a telephone interview with Georgia Unfiltered, Dr. Bluestone said the 2014 feasibility study was a snapshot in time.
"What we put out was a report based on the situation as it was when we wrote the report," Dr. Bluestone told Georgia Unfiltered. "Given the amount of revenue and the level of expenditure, does this city look like its viable?"
When asked if the proposed city of South Fulton could remain viable in the face of finalized and pending annexations, Dr. Bluestone called it an "interesting situation."
"You really have to look at these things with the numbers, and they haven't been presented to me," Dr. Bluestone said. "It may be possible. There's just no way to say if they annex this much property, then it doesn't work. If they don't, then it does.
"If someone is to ask us to comment on the changes, then we would have to do a new report," Dr. Bluestone conceded.
Fulton County Commissioner Marvin Arrington, who represents part of the proposed city, says he believes the area is still viable even with the pending annexation requests.
Still, Arrington said, he plans on voting no on any commercial annexation that comes before the Fulton County Commission.
"I'm voting no to any commercial annexation before June 30th," Commissioner Arrington wrote in an email exchange with Georgia Unfiltered. "I don't believe it's fair to new city. If annexations are not completed by June 30th then they can not go forward. I will ask all other commissioners to do the same."