How Much is Too Much?

That’s the question Johns Creek residents have been asking themselves this week after their City Council voted to select a millage rate that adds millions more to a growing budget surplus.

Three Council Members(Bradberry, Coughlin and Endres) all proposed millage rates that were lower than the Roll Back rate advertised by the City of Johns Creek.

All three did not get the necessary votes to pass.

Council Member Endres went into  detail on what the Millage Rate could comfortably be based upon the financial condition of the City and the increasing reserves that are rising.  We have several  times more than the reserves required by law.  At the end of the fiscal year for 2017, Johns Creek had more than $34 million in unrestricted reserves.

At one point Council Member Coughlin pointed out there are residents that are struggling financially, even in Johns Creek.   Zaprowski informed Coughlin that there was assistance for those with low incomes.  Unfortunately, it is actually possible for a two income family in Johns Creek making decent wages(as in above average) and still be struggling.  With rising medical costs, insurance costs, and overall property taxes,  creating a total tax burden consuming more than 56% of their income, it’s likely many families in Johns Creek are struggling to make ends meet.

Research supports this conclusion:

Total Revenues

Deficit

# of Households

Revenue per Household

Median Household Income

Revenue as % of median household income

Revenue from Median Johns Creek Household

Federal

$3,422,000,000,000

$985,000,000,000

126,220,222

$19,308

$59,039

32.7%

$35,050

State

$21,168,665,664

$0

3,611,706

$5,861

$53,559

10.9%

$11,729

School

$845,391,952

$0

195,760

$4,319

$58,851

7.3%

$7,865

County

$602,480,411

$0

385,103

$1,564

$58,851

2.7%

$2,849

City

$74,592,000

$0

26,880

$2,775

$107,176

2.6%

$2,775

56.2%

$60,267

 

Conclusion:  You have been paying too much in taxes over the last several years in Johns Creek and the amount overpaid is now over $34 million.  The City of Johns Creek has not clearly expressed the purpose of these funds.  There have been no votes on where this money is intended to go.

Council Member Lin expressed his desire to go with the higher millage rate and add the increased funds to the reserves.  This was despite Council Member Bradberry’s comments that “If you can’t vote for a cut this year, you’re never going to be able to.”

After the meeting when asked about the Millage Rate debate, Bradberry said

“The burden of proof should be more heavy on those seeking to take more of the Public’s money.    They had as much burden if not more that those that proposed a cut.  After all, it’s the Taxpayer’s money.”

According to Mayor Mike Bodker’s  budget proposal recently submitted to the City Council(and now soliciting feedback from the residents):

Purpose:
Real and Personal Property Tax is for the purpose of raising revenues to defray the costs of operating the City, of providing governmental services, for the repayment of principal and interest on general obligation bonds, and for any other public purpose as determined by the City Council in its discretion.

It should be safe to say that some of the $34 million in unrestricted reserves is from property taxes.  Those dollars have not been accumulated:

  • to defray the costs of operating the City(they would have been spent),
  • of providing government services (they would have been spent),
  • for the repayment of interest on general obligation  bonds (they would have been spent),
  • for any other public purpose as determined by the City (then they would NOT be unrestricted reserves).

The only conclusion we as residents can draw is that adding ANY property tax revenues to unrestricted reserves is inappropriate unless there is a clear purpose. Why take money out of the pockets of families that need it just to add to unrestricted reserves?

Which leads us back to the original question?  How much is too much?

Our answer?  Even if it’s one dollar, it’s too much.

Change definition of the purpose of the Property Taxes or follow it. Say what you do and do what you say.

That’s what “transparency” really looks like.

106 Year Old Rogers Bridge: Deemed Historic!

Rogers Bridge

At 106 years old, Johns Creek’s oldest resident is a forgotten bridge. This treasured structure has been recommended ELIGIBLE for National Register of Historic Places, by the Historic Bridge Association.

Very little records existed on the bridge until the Johns Creek City Council voted a few years ago to pursue the bridge restoration for a pedestrian connection to the Duluth park on the other side of the Chattahoochee River.

The 1912 Pin-Connected Pennsylvania thru truss bridge is 228 feet long. It is also the longest spanned bridge of that design in the State of Georgia. The entire bridge retains most of its original design elements, except for the deck, which was removed. Because of its embodiment of distinctive characteristics, it will likely get special recognition.

rogers_bridge

The 48″ diameter pipe was installed in the 1980’s as an emergency water line between Gwinnett County & Fulton County. Most bridges in the area are for motor vehicles, so there is little opportunity to watch the river and abundant wildlife. This makes this bridge a rare treasure.

The City of Johns Creek and the City of Duluth have been cooperatively working on a plan to restore the bridge, to allow a pedestrian crossing between to 2 City parks. Rogers Bridge Park on the Duluth side, and a Multi-Use trail and future Cauley Creek Park on the Johns Creek, side.

We will keep you posted as the design phase moves into the construction stage, as well as what funds are used to pay for the project.

Upon completion, spectacular views from above of the river will be enjoyed for years to come.

Source: Georgia Department of Transportation

Letter to JCP: Regarding Atlanta Athletic Club

This is regarding the post we published, on Saturday 8/11/18

We reviewed the City Council Agenda documents released to the public that Thursday, 8/9/18.

Here is a direct link to the Comprehensive Land Use Plan Agenda Report, where we sourced our information.

Below is highlighted clips.

Why would they want something copied from the ‘Comprehensive Plan Agenda Report’ retracted?
In addition, we reached out to the City Clerk & Director of Community Development, regarding if there were any errors or corrections in the report. As of 8/16/18, they were not aware of any.

 

What Happened Monday Night?

City Council made a few changes to the Comprehensive Land Use Plan draft version.
They added the following language on page 35.
The goals, objectives, and strategies outlined in this Vision Chapter will require the majority of Council to support and move forward functionally and financially.
City Council did not change the Atlanta Athletic Club (Heisman Field) density of AG-1 (Agriculture: 1 Unit per Acre), despite, AAC recommendation (See above document). They will need to follow the Rezoning process if they want to pursue Mixed-Use or any other land use changes for the City Council to consider.
Out of 2 choices for Housing Goal 1; Objective 1, the City Council chose to include the following strategy…
It is expected that undeveloped/underdeveloped parcels will be developed with a similar density or use as the surrounding neighborhood(s) or development(s). Remaining mindful of the diverse property uses surrounding these parcels, undeveloped/underdeveloped properties should be considered for rezoning.
Finally, City Council Voted to send the Comprehensive Plan to the Atlanta Regional Commission and the State of Georgia Department of Community Affairs for Review. It is expected back in 30 days.
Source: City of Johns Creek

Johns Creek Millage Rate: Council Member Stephanie Endres’ Proposal

Below is the presentation that Council Member Stephanie Endres has prepared for her Millage Rate proposal. We encourage you to read and review her suggestions as she makes the case for lower property taxes for Johns Creek residents.

August 13, 2018, is the date the Millage Rate will be set for Johns Creek. While starting at the rollback is a first for this City, the fact that this City accumulates more money than is spent each and every year is not an understatement. Her proposal, if passed, will leave more money in the hands of the property owners within Johns Creek.

Required reserve requirements have been met and unrestricted reserves(money with no agreed to purpose) at this time were more than $40,000,000 at the end of fiscal 2017.

Council Member Endres describes and supports her case for a property tax cut for Johns Creek residents in the document below:

2018 Property Tax Millage Rate

by Ed Thompson, Preserve Johns Creek

Three options are on the table.  Will our city council elect to raise taxes, keep taxes level for existing properties, or keep overall tax receipts static including growth. Given Fulton County’s excessive grab for tax dollars and Johns Creek’s problems with spending, residents need to pay close attention to where our elected officials stand on this decision.

Future Development Plans – TBD Monday 8/13/18

What will Johns Creek look like with the NEW Comp Plan?

After more than a year in the making, countless meetings and more reams of paper and documents than anyone can possibly sift through, City Council are scheduled to vote Monday night.

Below are some of the highlights of the drastic details included in the plan.

Traffic Lights

The bane of existence in Johns Creek – Traffic Lights has been allocated a measly $ 2.5 million dollars to improve signals. A paltry number, considering this is the #1 issue impacting every resident.

Yet a NEW loop road near Emory Johns Creek Hospital & Ebix is tagged for $6 million. Who knew this was an issue or need?

Medlock Bridge Rd & State Bridge Rd ​

Even after 12 years as a City, more studies are needed to determine improvements.

Unfortunately, coordinating the signals and increasing the green light timing is not mentioned. Simple fixes that will yield improvements and ease congestion.

2 options are listed on page 174. $8 million is allocated.

grade-separation-example
Grade Separation Example

Grade Separation with State Bridge Rd going UNDER Medlock Bridge Rd.

This project would take several years to complete, at least… It took the City 18 months to widen a half-mile of Old Alabama Rd & install sidewalks.

The bustling Regal Cinema complex is identified for redevelopment. Quite a bit of land will be needed if this project is approved.

 

ThrU_sign_goodluck
Lots of Signage & Confusion

Michigan Thru Turns are back!

Removing ALL Left-hand turns, and having cars make right-hand turns and then U-Turns.

Or alternatively, go thru the intersection, make a U-turn, then right-hand turn.

Massive Signage will be needed to direct traffic in the opposite direction of where they want to go.

4 Underground Pedestrian Tunnels

4-Tunnels for Medlock-bridge-State-Bridge
Tunnel-Key

As the busiest intersection in the City, most residents drive through it at least once a day.

How many Pedestrians do you see crossing the road?

FOUR Tunnels are in the plan. According to other municipalities, the typical price tag is $6 million for each tunnel, $24 Million total. That does not account for the yearlong disruption in shutting down entire lanes, whilst burrowing underground. Should bridges be considered? The entire region will be negatively impacted for years with long delays, and for how many walkers??

Which begs the question, where are these walkers coming from?

Atlanta Athletic Club

AAC-Heisman-field

In the event the land across from AAC is for sale, the City will NOT buy it.  As zoned agriculture,  the 77 acres, can have 77 homes built upon it.

In recent meetings, AAC board members & Attorneys have strongly requested the land be changed to Mixed-Use and allow 8 units per acre, totaling 616 residential units.

The Landowners adjacent to Johns Creek High School, have requested similar changes.

Planning Commission voted to recommend the City Council consider the AAC’s request for mixed-use. City Council will decide the density, Monday night.

Roundabouts

The Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) suggests feasibility studies for 15 Roundabouts!
  • Old Alabama Road at the entrance to the Falls of Autry Mill – page 60
  • Old Alabama Road at the entrance to Autrey Mill Middle School – page 60
  • Old Alabama and Spruill Roads – page 60
  • Old Alabama Road at the entrance to Thornhill subdivision – page 60
  • Old Alabama and Buice Roads – page 60 & 88
  • Buice and Candacraig Roads – page 60
  • Buice and Spruill Roads – page 60
  • Findley Road at the entrance to Findley Oaks Elementary School – page 74
  • Wilson and Parsons Roads – page 88
  • Bell Road and new Bell Road Connector – page 88
  • Parsons Road at the entrance of Glenhurst – page 88
  • Brumbelow Road at the intersection of Tuckerbrook Lane – page 102
  • Nesbit Ferry Road at the intersection of Rivermont Parkway – page 102
  • Taylor Road at the entrance to Chattahoochee High School – page 116
  • East Morton at the entrance to the Atlanta Chinese Christian Church – page 116
6 Roundabouts proposed for Old Alabama rd
The last public hearing for this plan and Vote, is Monday, 8/13/18 8pm
City Hall
11445 Johns Creek Parkway
Johns Creek, GA 30097

Email your thoughts to the City Council electedofficials@johnscreekga.gov
Source: City of Johns Creek

Johns Creek Event Center

Local Business Spotlight

Johns-creek-event-center
Conveniently located in the scenic Johns Creek Technology Park, Johns Creek Event Center is a 6,000 square foot venue space that can hold up to 250 people. With quiet and beautifully-landscaped surroundings, our multipurpose facility is equipped with a banquet hall, large training area, conference room, and kitchen, providing a setup ideal for weddings, parties, meetings, training, seminars, galas, and more.
More info on their Website 
(678) 430-8899
11455 Lakefield Drive, Ste 100
Johns Creek, Georgia 30097
JCEC-Conference-room
JCEC-banquet-room2
JCEC-Banquet-Room
JCEC-Training-room

FULTON COUNTY TAXPAYERS MISLED AND IGNORED: Vice Chairman Calls for Revocation of Illegal Millage Rate Vote

by Commissioner Bob Ellis

At the June 20, 2018 Fulton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) meeting, BOC members voted 6-0 (with one member not voting), to affirm that it was the intent of the Board of Commissioners to set the millage rate at a level that was sufficient to only generate the revenue necessary to cover expenditures in the 2018 budget, which was previously approved in January.

During that meeting, many members of the Commission clearly expressed that the County would reap no tax windfall in excess of the funds needed for the 2018 budget. Our state-required published notification that announced to taxpayers our proposed millage rate included the following statement: “Legislation adopted by the Board of Commissioners also expresses its intention to set a millage rate calculated to generate only enough revenue sufficient to cover the 2018 Budget.”

Fulton County Wants MORE Property Tax Revenue than Budgeted

By: Ed Thompson, Preserve Johns Creek

At the Fulton County Board of Commissioners meeting on Wednesday, August 1st, an agenda item was set to consider the property tax millage rate for 2018.  With the recently updated property value assessments significantly higher in 2018, most jurisdictions have been debating the extent to which they would adjust the millage rate in order to offset (to some degree) the increased values against which the millage rate is applied.

County Staff submitted several scenarios with millage rates from 9.77 up to 10.20.  Three Commissioners representing North Fulton Districts (District 1 – including Johns Creek, represented by Liz Hausmann, District 2 – Bob Ellis, District 3 – Lee Morris) all presented their perspectives in opposition to Scenario 6 that would set the millage rate at 10.20.  Despite their opposing votes, the motion approving the millage rate at 10.20 was approved with the votes of Chairman Rob Pitts, District 4 Natalie Hall, District 5 Marvin Arrington, and District 6 Emma Darnell.

As noted by Commissioner Ellis, the approved millage rate would collect $150MM in additional property tax revenue and would exceed the 2018 budget while adding $33.3MM in surplus to reserves.

Who is Watching the Store?

By: Ed Thompson, Preserve Johns Creek

The City of Johns Creek has an ongoing and consistent problem – a lack of budget discipline, and a practice of learning of spiraling costs at a point where it is typically too late to do anything about it. A case in point is the cost for our new City Hall. The latest estimates to complete that work came in at more than $1MM over plan (add in furniture costs that were shifted off-budget in order to make the miss appear to be less than it truly is, and you’re at $2.5MM over plan), and discussions about reviewing line item costs were given little consideration because of suggestions that introducing further delays would result in additional cost increases. In an interesting exercise in creative accounting, funds from the Parks Bonds were allocated to City Hall budget.

More recently, a presentation of the plans and costs for city parks provided further evidence of a lack of budget discipline, along with a decided lack of accountability for budget management. It was noted that in the lead-up to the Parks Bond vote, the residents were assured that the proposed projects and costs would be carefully managed and delivered as promised. That clearly hasn’t happened. Mayor Bodker provided a quick summary of the exploding costs over time. For three pocket parks, the average current estimate over-allocated budget exceeds 200%.

Councilwoman Endres has been consistent and vocal in expressing her concerns about the lack of budget discipline that have been occurring within our city. She prepared information that was provided during the City Council Work Session that show the extent of the funding gap that we’re facing on the three pocket parks, and one regional park that were part of the meeting agenda.

Millage Rate and Property Tax Revenue – Where Does the Money Go?

By: Ed Thompson, Preserve Johns Creek

Johns Creek City Council has held Public Hearings on July 23, 2018, regarding the 2018 Property Tax Millage Rate. Johns Creek resident and Fulton County Board of Assessors member Michael Fitzgerald makes a perfectly reasonable request: that our City Council openly and transparently share with resident the plans for the $1.2MM of incremental property tax revenue that will be collected under the updated Fulton County tax digest and Johns Creek’s proposed millage rate.

Councilwoman Stephanie Endres posed questions to Assistant City Manager, Kimberly Greer seeking to understand what additional city services justified the increase in property tax collections.  This is pertinent to the millage rate discussion because if our costs of services are not increasing, then the incremental property tax revenue is unwarranted, and should be offset by a further reduction in the millage rate.  Unfortunately, that line of questioning was interrupted by Mayor Bodker.

A reasonable request and a reasonable line of questioning. Why are some of our City Council unwilling to have an honest and transparent discussion about tax revenue and spending? Is the plan to protect a revenue windfall to cover for undisciplined spending?