Johns Creek's Charter Commission makes recommendations to council

Recommends easing tax cap change; district reps elected by at-large vote

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JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — A six-month review of the Johns Creek City Charter by an independent commission has made three major recommendations: relaxing the majority needed to raise the millage rate; district representation that is elected at-large; redefining the duties and powers of the mayor and council.

An independent review of Johns Creek’s City Charter as mandated by the enabling legislation for cityhood was conducted with citizen input over the last six months by the Johns Creek Charter Commission.

The commission presented its findings to the Johns Creek City Council July 23 as well as to the state legislature for its approval in the 2013 legislative session.

Any changes to the city’s charter are at the sole discretion of the legislature.

Among the suggested changes were these three key amendments:

** Millage/finance relaxation: A specific ballot measure authorizing debt for specific projects for a defined time frame would be allowed, with a majority of the measure’s voters able to approve raising the current 4.731 millage cap and bond for these projects, such as roads. Once the projects are completed and the bond paid off, the assessment would go away. The bond referendum could only be used for the specified projects, and would spell out the total tax impact on residents.

As originally worded, the city was almost paralyzed to enact a bond referendum for public projects. The wording required a majority of the registered voters, not just a majority of those voting.

Since balloting rarely attracts a majority of registered voters, it effectively rendered the city unable to ever borrow money or even get a bond rating.

** Geographical representation by City Council: Three large districts would be created, with two City Council members, elected at-large, representing each district.

Though responsible to the community as a whole, council members would have an added responsibility to know their particular district’s issues.

The commissioners noted the residents liked the idea of at-large election of council. They felt it would also be more likely to pass muster for the U.S. Department of Justice.

The commissioners said they felt this gave the city the best representation in that each district would be served by council members from that district, yet they were also required to be responsible to all of the city electorate.

** Structural changes: Duties and responsibilities defined and clarified for mayor, City Council and city manager, reflecting a corporate model with a balance of power between the mayor and council (comparable to a governing board of directors) and the city manager (professional chief executive officer).

“The office of mayor would be modified as more of a chairman,” said Commissioner Robert Horne. “He would have leeway to set up committees and act as spokesman to the press. It excludes any power in a legislative or executive capacity.”

The budget process would be the mayor’s role, but it would be with produced in concert with the city manager.

The commission also recommended that the charter have a regular and periodic review – they suggested every five years – to allow for changes desired not anticipated.

The commission’s full report is available at johnscreekga.gov.

RN 08-09-12