A $30 million to $50 million parks bond referendum could be on the November ballot for Brookhaven voters as city staff officials say they need the money to complete the city’s parks master plans. Parks project lists are expected to be finalized by July 9 and the City Council is expected to vote on the parks bond referendum at its July 24 meeting.

City Manager Christian Sigman forwarded an analysis of a potential Parks Bond referendum to the mayor and City Council on June 29. If approved by the City Council, the referendum would be on the Nov. 6 ballot.

“Our master plans, which were resident-driven, call for $75 million in parks capital improvements, and we presently have no dedicated funding source,” City Manager Christian Sigman said in a press release. “We are recommending a millage-backed Park Bond Referendum in the $30 million to $50 million range, which would not increase Brookhaven property taxes.”

A millage rate to support a parks bond would be offset by the reduction in the city’s property tax rate due to DeKalb County Park Bonds maturing in 2020 as well as the increased EHOST property tax credit resulting from the voter approval of the SPLOST in November 2017, according to Sigman.

“As it stands now, a parks bond is the most viable means of completing the redevelopment of park facilities and construction of new facilities in our lifetimes,” he said.

If the mayor and City Council chooses to place a Park Bond Referendum on the November ballot, the City Council must adopt a resolution calling the election ballot question at its July 24 meeting.

In this resolution, the city must have the wording of the question finalized and an associated project list. City officials have been collaborating with the Park and Recreation Commission (PARC) to develop project lists at $30, $40 and $50 million increments. The lists are expected to be submitted on or before July 9, according to Sigman.

“Once we have the recommended projects, we will post them on the city website and invite feedback,” he said.

The $30 million to $50 million range is much smaller than the nearly $70 million city officials originally proposed at the City Council’s February retreat that would have included a net tax increase.

An update of the Parks Master Plan presented to the council at the February retreat shows costs for Ashford Park, Blackburn Park, Briarwood Park, Fernwood Park, Georgian Hills Park, Lynwood Park, Murphey Candler Park and Murphey Candler Park II (an extension of the park) is about $60 million, according to numbers presented to the council in February. That number is significantly higher than the $28 million Parks Master Plan approved by the City Council in 2016.

An analysis of how bonds if approved could affect homeowners. (City of Brookhaven)

At $50 million, the parks bond would cover the lion’s share of the projects, but does not result in an overall increase in property taxes, city spokesperson Burke Brennan said.  If the city were go above $50 million, residents would see a net tax increase.

At a June 21 town hall, Parks and Recreation Director Brian Borden presented the results of a city parks survey sent out to residents in May. More than 24,000 surveys were sent out with 853 residents responding. According to the survey, 63 percent of the respondents indicated they strongly or somewhat support paying higher property taxes to support the city’s parks; 37 percent of those who took the survey said they did not support paying higher property taxes.

The website for Parks Bond Referendum information, including the Park Bond Referendum report and supporting documentation, can be found here: https://www.brookhavenga.gov/parksrec/page/parks-and-recreation-future-funding

The email for feedback on parks projects by July 9 is ParksFeedback@BrookhavenGA.gov.

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.