Opponents of the Buckhead cityhood effort released a study Thursday that claims there would be a substantial financial impact on the city of Atlanta if Buckhead were to secede.

The study says that the net fiscal loss to Atlanta would range from $80 million to $116 million per year if Buckhead were to break off.

Atlanta Public Schools would be hit harder, says the study, with an estimated $232 million annual loss. The study also says that both Buckhead and Atlanta residents would see increased taxes due to the loss of financial resources, among other impacts. Read it here.

Atlanta-based consulting firm KB Advisory Group conducted the study. Staff members at George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis participated as consultants. It was paid for by the Buckhead Coalition. Anti-cityhood group Committee for a United Atlanta distributed the report.

Linda Klein.

“This study clearly shows that breaking up Atlanta is a bad idea. It’s bad for Buckhead. It’s bad for Atlanta. It’s bad for the metro region. And it’s bad for the state of Georgia,” Linda Klein, co-chair for the Committee for a United Atlanta, said in email statement on Thursday.

The study comes just two days after the Buckhead City Committee, which is spearheading the effort for Buckhead to incorporate, released its own feasibility study from Valdosta State University. That study claims an independent city could raise more than $200 million a year in revenue, with almost $114 million in surplus.

“This so-called ‘analysis’ is classic doomsday drivel from the usual suspects,” Bill White, CEO of the Buckhead City Committee, said in a statement to Reporter Newspapers. “The most fundamental flaw is the assumption that Buckhead City will not continue as part of Atlanta Public Schools. There are details to work out, of course, but the suggestion that APS would forfeit more than $300M in revenue by electing to not serve Buckhead City is not plausible. We are confident of the legal strategy to maintain APS services for Buckhead City.”

The study from KB Advisory Group looked at the northern portion of Atlanta, generally north of the Interstate 75/85 split. It comprises about 18 percent of Atlanta’s total land area and about 20 percent of its population.

The analysis said that the city of Atlanta would lose about $252 million in recurring revenues from Buckhead, mainly from property, sales and lodging taxes, as well as business license fees. The study says Atlanta would save between $136 million and $172 million since it would no longer have to provide city services to Buckhead residents. But that would still leave a net fiscal loss to Atlanta, estimated at $80 million to $116 million per year.

As for Atlanta Public Schools, the school district that serves Buckhead, it would lose about $332 million in recurring revenues from Buckhead, says the study, but save APS $98 million in student service costs. That would leave a $232 million annual loss for APS, or about 28% of the $843 million 2020 APS budget, says the study.

There are approximately 8,170 students in the Buckhead study area that attend APS schools, representing about 16% of all APS students, according to the study.

“While only 16% of student service costs emanate from Buckhead, 55% of local revenue comes from Buckhead, leaving a significant net fiscal loss if the Buckhead area completes a de-annexation,” says the study.

APS Board Chairman Jason Esteves released the following statement on the cityhood effort.

“The de-annexation of Buckhead would be extremely disruptive to APS families, especially those that attend the North Atlanta High School cluster,” Esteves said in the statement. “The status of nearly 5,500 APS students who live within the boundaries of the proposed city would be in limbo.  We continue to analyze the potential impacts of the proposal, but believe that the best solution to crime in the City is for all of us to work together to tackle root causes.”

The study also looks at other impacts of Buckhead leaving Atlanta, such as on the city’s credit rating and ability to attract economic development.

“De-annexing the Buckhead area would likely have a destabilizing impact on the state of Georgia,” said Edward Lindsey, co-chair for the Committee for a United Atlanta, in a statement. “Unlike forming a city out of unincorporated parts of a county, like Sandy Springs or Brookhaven, de-annexing part of a big city has never been done before and will set a dangerous precedent. Other neighborhoods in cities throughout Georgia may suddenly decide to break up key parts of their city. No doubt, it will risk the reputation of Georgia as the best state in the country for business.”

Update: This story was updated on Sept. 17 with comments from Bill White and Jason Esteves.

Amy Wenk

Amy Wenk

Amy Wenk was editor of Reporter Newspapers in 2021-22.