Hey everyone,

As always, there appears to be a lot happening in Cobb County right now and this upcoming week will definitely be a busy one filled with contention.

There are 2 events tonight!

Here are the events in the next few days:

  • Tuesday, July 18th 6:30-8:30PM: Public Workshop for the South Cobb Transfer Center (new)
  • Tuesday, July 18th 6:30PM 2023-2024 Budget Public Hearing
  • Wednesday, July 19th 5:00-7:00PM: Public Workshop for the Marietta Transfer Center (relocation?)
  • Wednesday, July 19th 5:30-7:30PM: District 3 Budget Town Hall and Q&A
  • Tuesday, July 25th 7:00PM: Cobb Board of Commissioners Meeting, budget and millage rate public hearings and likely vote on millage and budget
  • Wednesday, July 26th 6PM: Public Meeting for Austell-Powder Springs Road Trail at Threadmill Complex

So yes, that’s a lot. And unless you have clones of yourself or have the latest in hologram technology, it’s going to be hard to be in 2 places at once the next couple of days.

Tonight, I will be attending the South Cobb Transfer Center meeting first, and then heading to the Budget Public Hearing. Tomorrow, I will be attending the Marietta Transfer Center meeting.

These are meetings where if you want changes to happen and for this county to move forward, we need to show up and provide feedback.

Budget/Millage Rate/Taxes

Now, taxes are always going to be a controversial subject, especially in Cobb County where many people moved years ago for low taxes, cheap land, and subsidized sprawl. Also, due to recent political changes (Republican control to Democratic control after 2020 elections), you’re going to see a lot of politicizing about the taxes. For some people in this county, the Democratic commissioners can do no right.

Given that, I am still shocked at some of the rhetoric regarding public comment both at public hearings and online. A part of that is because there are some people who are intentionally riling up people, including giving out talking points at public meetings, spreading lies online, and just heating up the rhetoric.

To be clear, the millage rate and budget are very confusing and it seems as if very few people understand the process and what goes into their taxes. These leaves a lot of area for misinformation whether its intentional or not.

I won’t try to explain it on my own but here’s a few highlights from what I’ve learned during this process (screenshots are from this Work Session on 6/27)

  • Most of a property owners tax bill goes to three line items: School Fund, Fire Fund, and General Fund
  • Although the School Fund will see a slight millage decrease, but this is where the majority of the increases will be seen
  • The County General Fund and Fire Fund will keep the millage rate at the same level, but due to a higher assessment on many properties, that means the tax bill increases.
  • Overall, the county will see a $44 million increase in Operating Budget and with a $32.2 million increase in Governmental Funds (including Fire) and an $11.3 million increase Business-type funds.

Here’s a breakdown of the $32 million increase in Governmental Funds

Regarding the $11 million increase in Business Type Funds, the majority of the increases is coming from the water system. A proposed $1 million increase is budgeted to pilot an EXPANSION of service for Flex service in South Cobb.

When it comes to Revenue for the General Fund, property taxes are increasing by $16 million (a 4% increase). All General Fund revenues are increasing by $19.3 Million (a 3% increase)

Regarding General Fund Expenditures, the largest increase is in Personnel ($17.4 Million from the increase in pay rates for public safety officials) and Operating Expenses (11.4 Million primarily from increased insurance costs). Note the decrease in Capital Expenditures of $7.3 Million.

  • The first public hearing on July 11th was filled with erroneous claims and misstatements. Here’s a list of the claims that can be debunked/argued against:
    • The process consists of 2 parts: 1. Adopting the millage rate and tax collections for the county, including all cities and school districts.
      2. Adopting the 2024 proposed budget
    • NOTE: The County Commissioners CANNOT legally send the School Board millage rate back to the Cobb County School Board, nor should they. The Commissioners are bound to approve the proposed millage rate that the School Board already approved.
    • Some public commenters brought up housing affordability and how renters will be impacted more by these increased assessments. One public commenter even claimed that he own 43-44 properties that he rents and will pass the increased tax bill to his tenants.
      • Funny that these same people won’t support increased density and more housing to address housing affordability. They only care when it supports their finances.
      • Also, let’s be clear, rents are historically the highest they have ever been due to increased demand and a shortage of supply. Did these landlords keep prices the same for their tenants as their tax bills historically stayed flat…?
    • Commenters brought up complaints about consultants and spending on things they don’t support, including transit. References to bike lanes and “empty buses” are common. Frankly, I’m sick of the entitlement of some people who want to cut services they don’t personally use.

Personally, I would suggest attending either the hearing tonight or on July 25th when the approval is scheduled to occur as what you will witness will be a precursor to some of the conversation that will take place when a tax is proposed for more transit services.

Transfer Centers

Regarding transit, it’s also important to try to give public feedback on the Transfer Centers and what you want to see. I have ridden CobbLinc multiple times over the past month, including taking my son to the Braves game this past weekend. We started at the Marietta Transfer Center and right away, there are some improvements that are desperately needed:

  • Poor land use around the Transfer Center (no housing or actual destinations nearby)
  • Poor pedestrian/bike connectivity (South Marietta Parkway is a dangerous stroad and there is no street grid for pedestrian connectivity)
  • No kiosks to purchase fares or Breezecards (requires exact change or pre-loading the Breezecard by at least 24-48 hours)
  • No signage or timetables for routes (some maps exist but are torn up)
  • In general, it wasn’t a pleasant place to wait for the bus

Another issue is the general location of the Transfer Center, as it requires bus routes to deviate adding time to their routes and making service worse.

In my opinion, the ideal future Transfer Center would be a destination where you would want to meet others and would include:

  • Transit Oriented Development/Improved Land Use (this could be above or adjacent to the transfer hub)
    • This would include housing, public services, retail
  • Better bike/pedestrian connectivity (including bike rentals)
  • Signage and timetables for all routes
  • Comfort and safety improvement
  • Improvements on service (fare payments, better location for service, etc. One suggestion for improved location is for the new Transfer Center to be located closer to Highway 41 and the toll lanes so that buses have a more direct route)

Regarding the South Cobb location, it will ideally be located near Cobb Hospital at the intersection of Austell Road and East-West Connector. This location would enable this area to be a transit hub serving Austell, Powder Springs, Mableton, and other communities in South Cobb.

The image below shows how the 3 Transfer Centers will be the backbone for the future expanded transit system (image is from the adopted Comprehensive Transportation Plan)

That covers two of the top issues taking place the next couple of weeks. Hope to see you at an upcoming public event (I will be out of town for the BoC meeting and Austell-Powder Springs Road Trail meeting…but we still need people to show up!)

Hope everyone is enjoying their summer!

‘til next time!