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Is proposed Buckhead City creation legal? Gov. Kemp's office raises concerns

In a letter to Kemp's leaders in the Senate, the governor's executive counsel raised concerns.

ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp's administration raised concerns that the push to create Buckhead City could violate Georgia's constitution if Atlanta is ultimately split.

Executive Counsel David Dove warned that two Senate bills passed by a committee earlier this week could change local governments and create "a future of unforeseen outcomes."

The letter could deal a heavy blow before Crossover Day on Monday, a critical legislative deadline. Both bills are scheduled for a Senate vote Thursday.

In a memo sent late Tuesday, Dove posed 11 questions to Kemp's floor leaders —  State Sens. Bo Hatchett (R-Cornelia) and Mike Hodges (R-Brunswick) — regarding Senate Bills 113 and 114, urging state lawmakers to address and resolve the concerns before pushing the legislation forward.

It's the first time this year Kemp's administration has raised issues about the secession efforts.

Under SB 114, a public referendum would be held on Buckhead cityhood. SB 113 would allow newly formed municipalities to purchase property and other infrastructure from existing cities, giving Buckhead the opportunity to buy fire stations and other items from Atlanta. The legislation would also give Buckhead a portion of Atlanta's cash. The proposed Buckhead City would also take over some bond obligations.

Among the issues, Dove questioned how the bills might affect taxes, municipal bonds and the "possible widespread default that might occur" as a result of a split like this.

Dove added Buckhead City supporters have failed to say if students in the new city would be able to enroll in Atlanta Public Schools despite the municipality's location outside Atlanta's limits.

Dove also expressed concern about what happens to Atlanta-owned property like parks that Buckhead City may not purchase, creating Atlanta "islands within Buckhead."

"Are such properties subject to Buckhead or Atlanta policing? How will this impact safety? How can these considerations be resolved without quarrel?," Dove said.

The bills are sponsored by Republican senators who live outside Atlanta — Majority Whip Randy Robertson, Brandon Beach, Greg Dolezal, Matt Brass, Lee Anderson, Marty Harbin, Billy Hickman and Carden Summers. 

Sen. Colton Moore sponsors only SB 114, the Buckhead referendum. Sen. Shawn Still sponsors only SB 113.

The split is unlikely. The bill would have to pass the full Senate ahead of Crossover Day before the Georgia House of Representatives could vote on the measure. If they pass the House, the bills would then land on Kemp's desk.

A majority of voters within the proposed municipality would have to approve Buckhead City's creation.

In recent days, several organizations said they don't support the Buckhead City movement, including the Atlanta Board of Education on Wednesday.

"Formation of a City of Buckhead City will have a disastrous impact on the entire school district, beyond Buckhead and the North Atlanta Cluster," a portion of the board's statement reads. "Students residing in the proposed City of Buckhead City would lose access to the APS teachers, administrators, instructional programming and extracurricular resources they currently enjoy. With a significantly smaller student population and physical footprint, APS would have to complete a tremendous scaling back of staff across the district."

Read the memo below:


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