Frequently Asked Questions
Crime is up everywhere. Why is Buckhead special?
Crime is rampant in Atlanta. Atlanta’s murders are up 60% over last year and shootings have increased by 40%, yet arrests are down by about 43%. This wave of violent crime is impacting Buckhead disproportionately.
According to a June Atlanta Police Department report, robberies have increased by 2% citywide, but 39% in Buckhead since last year. Aggravated assaults are up 26% in Atlanta, 52% in Buckhead. Larceny from automobiles is up 27% in Atlanta, 40% in Buckhead. Buckhead clearly is attracting crime and criminals at a higher rate than Atlanta in general.
Why can’t the City of Atlanta and Buckhead work together to reduce crime throughout the metro area?
Atlanta has a long history of officers feeling undervalued and unappreciated, leading to what the Atlanta Journal-Constitution calls an “officer exodus.” In fact, among Buckhead residents, 39% of African Americans and 70% of white voters feel the police are demoralized by Atlanta leadership. According to the APD, there are currently 1,623 officers in the force (with 110 recruits in training), a near-record low.
The residents of Buckhead have repeatedly reached out to the City of Atlanta to help reduce crime in Buckhead and throughout the metro area. Such overtures have been repeatedly rebuffed.
Result: Buckhead businesses are forced to hire private security, and many are leaving, Buckhead residents limit their outings and avoid shopping areas and Buckhead committees and neighborhoods erect license plate readers and security cameras with their own funds. Quality of life erodes as crime becomes more pervasive.
How would policing in Buckhead City differ from that exercised by the City of Atlanta?
The Atlanta Police Department currently is understaffed by about 400 officers.
In Buckhead, a community of over 100,000 residents, there are approximately 80 Atlanta police officers assigned, with only about 20 officers on shift at a time.
Using an FBI recommendation of 2.5 officers per 1,000 residents, the feasibility study projects 250 Buckhead City police officers, 175 of them patrol officers. Policy studies demonstrate that each additional officer reduces crime by 1.3 violent crimes and 4.2 property crimes per year.
In addition to simply increasing the size of the police force, Buckhead City would view its officers as keepers of community order, not potentially malicious predators. The Atlanta mayor recently admitted that the Atlanta police morale is “down ten-fold.” A Buckhead City police force, by contrast, would be honored, welcomed and supported. In fact, the feasibility study projects the starting salary for a Buckhead City patrol officer to be $55,000. (The starting salary at the Atlanta Police Department is $48,500 and the Buckhead City Committee has a stated goal of offering up to $70,000.)
Will the formation of Buckhead City financially harm Atlanta?
No. The City of Atlanta’s annual operating budget is $2.04 billion. An additional $1.4 billion is allotted to Atlanta Public Schools. From that combined total of $3.44 billion, Buckhead City expects to require less than 6 percent, or $203 million, to sustain and even improve the quality and delivery of city services.
Buckhead City would continue to utilize (and fund through taxes and fees) the Atlanta Public Schools, some city services like water and trash collection and Fulton County libraries. Moreover, Buckhead City leadership is committed to honoring obligations related to Atlanta’s publicly issued bonds— such as those that funded the downtown Mercedes-Benz Stadium—via a pro-rata portion of the debt.
The Buckhead City movement seeks to gain more control for Buckhead residents in the following four areas: public safety, parks, zoning and road maintenance—functions the City of Atlanta has failed to satisfy for years. Only the taxes dedicated to those functions would be diverted from Atlanta.
How would Buckhead City benefit Atlanta?
The formation of Buckhead City would leave the City of Atlanta with responsibility for 20% fewer residents and a 20% smaller area. Any resulting reduction in funds to the City of Atlanta via Buckhead taxes will be offset by the reduction of responsibility for police, roads and parks. A smaller Atlanta…a smaller anything…is easier to manage. Therefore, the formation of Buckhead City is a win-win for Buckhead and Atlanta.
Would future Buckhead City students be eligible to attend Atlanta Public Schools?
The law (Ga. L. 1950, p. 458) now makes clear that APS expands with Atlanta boundaries but is silent on what happens when the city limits contract. The law does not say that APS shall have exactly the same boundaries as the city. The details will have to be worked out, but the prospect of APS refusing more than $300M in revenue realized from Buckhead taxes and fees is simply not realistic. We are confident APS will continue to serve Buckhead families.
What is the anticipated impact of Buckhead City on businesses?
Major retailers already are pulling out of the once-thriving shopping meccas of Lenox Mall and Phipps Plaza due to a spike in both petty crimes like trespassing and shoplifting, and violent crimes like assaults and shootings. On
the storied Buckhead thoroughfare of West Paces Ferry Road, over 40 acres of land are suddenly up for sale. Businesses are closing and moving because private security is prohibitively expensive and current levels of public policing are insufficient to discourage crime. Businesses cannot thrive in crime-ridden communities because citizens shy away from the perceived danger.
Would taxes increase for future Buckhead City residents?
No. Given the same tax revenue, the administration of Buckhead City would deliver more and better services to the people of Buckhead.
The feasibility study reports that the proposed Buckhead City should expect annual revenue of approximately $203 million and annual expenses of approximately $90 million, generating a surplus of approximately $113 million, which may be used for long neglected infrastructure maintenance.
Buckhead City would continue to utilize (and fund through taxes and fees) the Atlanta Public Schools, some city services like water and trash collection and Fulton County libraries. And assuming Buckhead City would acquire such services at rates comparable to those offered to surrounding cities, we do not anticipate adverse impact on taxes paid by Buckhead residents.
How would Buckhead City benefit future residents?
Buckhead City would improve the quality of life of all of its residents. The feasibility study reports that the proposed Buckhead City should expect annual revenue of approximately $203 million and annual expenses of approximately $90 million, generating a surplus of approximately $113 million, which may be used for long neglected infrastructure maintenance.
Buckhead City would have its own mayor, city council, city administration, fire department, municipal courts, parks department, public works department, etc. Given the same tax revenue, the administration of Buckhead City would deliver more and better services to the people of Buckhead.
Isn’t racial prejudice motivating the Buckhead City movement?
No. Concern about crime is the driving force. Nearly 66% of Buckhead voters rate crime as their number one concern—more pressing than taxes, roads, jobs or social justice issues. Nearly 60% of African American voters living in Buckhead cite crime as their chief concern. (11 percent of Buckhead’s population is African American, according to the U.S. Census Bureau).
Concern about crime also spans political affiliations, with 54% of Democrats, 64% of Independents, and 83% of Republican Buckhead voters citing crime as their top issue.
Moreover, adding more police to the force positively affects everyone. In fact, studies show that in the average city larger police forces result in Black lives saved at about twice the rate of white lives saved (relative to their percentage of the population).
What would the formation of Buckhead City mean for the future of the metro region?
The formation of Buckhead City will greatly improve the quality of life of its residents by addressing safety, infrastructure and preserving its unique characteristics with protective zoning laws and park beautification.
A valued and increased police force will keep our neighborhoods safe, while also retaining and attracting businesses. An independent police force in Buckhead will also allow Atlanta to focus on other areas in dire need of more policing.
The incorporated Buckhead City will gain control over local zoning. Changes now being proposed by the City of Atlanta would subdivide residential lot sizes, increase housing density, decimate the tree canopy, worsen already hectic traffic, and strain community resources. Such devastation, proposed ostensibly to increase “affordable housing”—will only enrich developers at the cost of Buckhead’s livability. The incorporated Buckhead City will advance sensible zoning that attracts businesses while preserving residential integrity.
Why doesn’t the feasibility study provide more detail on future Buckhead City operations?
The feasibility study was never intended to answer all questions about Buckhead City, nor does it present a de facto city “budget.” The authors only set out to determine if the city was possible. Their answer, after tabulating taxes and expenses, and noting the experience of similar communities, is yes. Though there remains much work to do by those intent on making Buckhead City a reality, this milestone is sufficient to prompt the Georgia General Assembly to allow Buckhead residents to vote on the matter by adding the issue to the November 2022 ballot.