Dunwoody City Council sends parks bond package to voters

City residents in November will decide on whether to raise taxes for a multi-million dollar bond package for the city's parks

Voters in Dunwoody will decide in November whether to approve two $33 million bonds to enhance the city’s parks system.

The Dunwoody City Council on Monday night approved the multi-million-dollar financing package for the ballot. The proposal, if passed, would raise the city’s tax rate by 1.5 mills, an estimated $60 per year for each $100,000 in assessed home value. 

“It’s time for an investment. Dunwoody is at a crossroads. The time is now,” Councilman John Heneghan said.

The council delayed a decision on the two, 30-year financing packages at a prior meeting this month to scrutinize pending tax hikes in DeKalb County. The proposal by the county would raise county taxes for Dunwoody residents by 14 percent.

On Monday, council members acknowledged a sluggish economy and local tax hikes, but they said that voters should decide whether or not to make an “investment” to improve the city.

Mayor Ken Wright said that Dunwoody doesn’t have enough parks and that the city - with a tax increase - would have the money to buy more parkland while prices are historically low. This spring the city purchased a struggling development property in the Georgetown area at a 30 percent discount.

“In November I will vote for the bonds,” Wright said. “Dunwoody is underserved by parkland.”

The ballot in the fall will have two questions for voters. One financing package would be used to remediate and acquire park land. The other would be used to improve parks that already exist.

Councilman Robert Wittenstein said that it would be up to voters to decide if both are important enough to pass. For his part, he said acquiring new parkland during the next few years is critical.

“For me that is the more urgent priority,” he said. “I was tempted to vote against the parks improvement but that’s important too.”

Very few people came to the council meeting Monday to talk about the parks financing packages. That’s in sharp contrast to a series of well-attended meetings that outlined the various improvements to parks like Brook Run and Dunwoody Nature Center in the city’s parks plan.

Councilman Denis Shortal questioned some of the language of the future ballot initiative and said he wanted it to be clear that city residents understand the millage rate of the city will increase if the bonds are passed.

Dunwoody, since its creation three years ago, has maintained a property tax rate of 2.7 mills to fund general government, a police force and other services.

The resolutions for the park bond packages caps their interest rate at 7 percent, so if the city can’t get a rate of 7 or less, the bond will not be sold. While interest rates change constantly, the current rate is around 5 to 5.25 percent, City Finance Director Chris Pike has said.


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