Digging Into The Numbers: Forsyth County is Not the Cause of Our Congestion Problems(We Are)

Johns Creek has a constant claim that the traffic here is bad, although it is NOT the fault of our poorly timed and prioritized traffic lights.  No instead it is because of the growth in areas around us that is the cause of our issues.

So I decided to dig into the numbers looking at what the last ten years have brought us in terms of population growth among Forsyth County, Johns Creek, Roswell, Alpharetta and Milton.  What I found is amazing.

Fastest Growing in terms of % Growth: Forsyth County

While that is not a surprise the reason is rather simple:  Forsyth County actually started with a much smaller total population than Johns Creek, Roswell, Alpharetta and Milton did ten years ago.  Put simply they started with a lower headcount, which makes their percentage growth look higher.

Annualized Rate of Growth Over The Last Ten Years

  1. Forsyth County   3.67%
  2. Milton                  2.79%
  3. Alpharetta           2.20%
  4. Johns Creek      1.75%
  5. Roswell              0.66%

There are no major surprises there.  In fact you might look at the numbers for Johns Creek and say “AHA”!  But that is not all there is to this story.

Density Per Square Mile

  1. Johns Creek      2665
  2. Alpharetta          2333
  3. Roswell             2249
  4. Milton                  964
  5. Forsyth County  860

Density refers to the average number of people living per square mile.

 

Johns Creek is # 1 in density.  We have today 2665 people living in every square mile of Johns Creek(on average).  We are more than 15% denser than Alpharetta and more than three times denser than Forsyth County.

Now let’s get to the most interesting discovery.  Who has been adding the most people per square mile over the last ten years-Forsyth County or a Fulton City?

Change in Density Per Square Mile Over Ten Years

  1. Alpharetta               456
  2. Johns Creek          425
  3. Forsyth County     260
  4. Milton                     232
  5. Roswell                 144

Johns Creek and Alpharetta are already dense and getting denser at a faster rate than even Forsyth County, despite it’s tremendous growth.  Why is that?

It’s the size of the land where the growth is taking place, and the starting point of the population 10 years ago.

Size of Cities/Counties

  1. Forsyth County  247 Square Miles
  2. Roswell                42.01 Square Miles
  3. Milton                   39.15 Square Miles
  4. Johns Creek       31.27 Square Miles
  5. Alpharetta           27.3 Square Miles

So if we take the four cites and compare them to Forsyth County on the number of people added per square mile, we find out that despite the growth in Forsyth County, the four cities are adding more people per square mile than Forsyth County.

Growth of Four Cities per Square Mile Over the Last Ten Years

314 New Residents Per Square Mile

Growth of Forsyth County per Square Mile Over the Last Ten Years

260 New Residents Per Square Mile

In fact the four cities are adding residents at a rate that is a whopping 20.7% faster than Forsyth County over the last ten years.

What is the result of the growth that we have seen over the last ten years on a per acre basis?  The results are revealing.  Forsyth County has less than two residents per acre on average, while Johns Creek has more than four residents per acre on average.  So not only are we more dense than Forsyth County, we are adding density faster than Forsyth County.

Remember our zoning as you look at this chart.  R-3, for instance allows 3 homes per acre.  Many townhome communities have 7-9 units per acre.  That translates to 20-30 more people per acre(which is one of the reasons why the densities are rising so fast in Johns Creek and Alpharetta).

 

 

 

In the chart below you can see that Forsyth County is less than half of the population when compared to the four other cities from North Fulton.  And as Forsyth County is adding density at a slower pace than we are, Forsyth County’s  portion of this pie will shrink unless we and the other cities put the brakes on increasing our densities.

 

 

So maybe we better look in the mirror when we start blaming others for our traffic congestion problems.  We are packing in residents faster than they are, and there is no end in sight for this trend.

Is this what we really seek as the future of Johns Creek?  To be the most densest populated City in the area?

Let’s hope not.

The Property Tax Model is Broken Beyond Repair

Let’s be honest. The system of collecting taxes for county, city, and school taxes is broken. And the larger the area dependent on funding from property taxes, the more broken it becomes. North Fulton County residents pay tremendously more for the same county services than South Fulton residents.  Why?

Here are three reasons it needs to be scrapped:

  1. There is no correlation between the amount of taxes you pay and the amount of “services” you receive.

A family of six living in a $500,000 home and a family of two living in a $500,000 home, pay the same property taxes if they live in the same community.  Why?  What makes us feel its fair to collect three times as much tax on a per capita basis from one family than another?  What if the family of two lives in a home worth one million?  What makes it right to collect six times as much for the very same levels of services?  Should I mention that the family of six likely creates more demand for services than the family of two as well?

When property values are high, and tax rates are high, this can have the effect of driving out empty nester residents to avoid the high levels of taxes relative to the services they receive for those tax dollars.

2.  Property values rising(and falling) should have no impact on how much tax revenue is needed to run your county, cities, and schools.

We’ve seen property values fall during recessions and rise during better times.  This should have nothing to do with how many dollars are needed to provide services in your community.  Yet we have made the tax digest the first step in the taxation process, followed by each government agency voting on the millage rate to be applied to that tax digest.  Elected officials vote far more often on how much they will tax you than you have a chance to vote on whether or not they should remain in office.

Let’s add to that the huge infrastructure we now have in place at the Tax Assessor’s office to track every piece of property, every structure, and every improvement you make to your home, all in the effort to make sure every $ of real estate(real or imagined) is taxed.

Why on earth should you owe the government more dollars because you decided to finish your basement or add a deck?

The perverseness of this likely discourages residents from making improvements to their properties.

How much time and energy is used by the Tax Assessor’s office to gather all of this information?  How accurate is it?  Is it worth it?  Who is really benefitting?

3.  How many hours of effort will the Public spend appealing these assessments?

If 1/4 of the households in Johns Creek appeal, that could be as high as 7,000 homes.  Spend five hours on this process, and cumulatively we will have spent 35,000 hours fighting our high assessments.

Instead, why don’t we take a moment and consider a different system?  We do not tax each resident within an HOA a variable amount do we?  It’s a flat rate per household.  While not necessarily the same on a per capita basis, it is a fairer system than taxing each household based upon the value of their property.

What would a fixed property tax collected per residence look like?  First, it would treat all of us as equally as possible.

We would not need an army of government employees tracking our properties, needing to know everything about the inside and outside of our homes.

We would never have to appeal property taxes in the future.

Our governments would be accountable to us directly for the rate of taxation we face, and there would be no finger-pointing as to who is to blame.

The current system of taxation has more expensive property owners subsidizing the less expensive property owners.  In a society where wealth redistribution is frowned upon by most of us, it is curious to me why we are so willing to allow tax redistribution with property taxes, where the level of services received are so far removed from what the property owner pays in taxes.

Johns Creek could lead the way to a better model of taxation for its residents.  It’s time we slay the beast that taxation based on property values has become.   Taxation should not be unfair or onerous.

It’s time for a change.  Contact your locally elected officials and tell them you want a different system.  Tell them you want a better, more equitable system.

None of the Above (or What’s a 6th Congressional District Libertarian To Do?)

The Georgia 6th Congressional District Race will go down as the most expensive Congressional race in US History.  Not because of the impact that the winner will have.  It will take years and years for that winner, if they stay in office, to amass the type of seniority and power to really make a difference.

There are no close votes in the US Congress that are going to be decided by 1 vote either.  Instead, this is about appearances.  It’s an opportunity for both national parties (who really could care less about us here locally) to symbolically suggest that the winner of this race somehow proves or disproves the election of one Donald Trump.

Making this race even more enticing is the number in front of the district: the 6th.  Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich once held the same seat number.  But the district is far removed physically from the same turf Gingrich represented.  Nevertheless the media has worked overtime to say just how symbolic a democrat in that seat would be.

As a Libertarian, neither of these two candidates are what I seek in an elected official.  There were several of the 19 candidates that were as close to being what I sought without running myself.  But we must be honest. Before the first votes were cast, the Republican Party leadership was already shaping the minds of the electorate as to who they should support.

An open election such as this would normally be a Libertarian’s dream come true.  An opportunity to participate in an open election without the ballot restrictions.  And were it not the 6th Congressional District, and it was not immediately after Trump’s election, things could have been a lot different.

Congressman Tom Price owned the seat.  In years past there have been no serious efforts by members of either party to unseat Tom Price.  That is the power of being an incumbent.  With incumbency comes money, power, and influence.

That’s also why you saw the mad scramble, mostly from Republicans in office who resigned to run, and those who had been in offices before, and saw this opportunity as the chance of a lifetime.

Due to ballot access restrictions in Georgia during the regular election cycle, Libertarians cannot generally meet the incredibly high number of signatures needed to be on the ballot, which is something the other two parties do not even worry about.

As a Libertarian, I feel that shows clearly that something is wrong with the system.  But, as a Libertarian, I am still entitled to vote for either of the two candidates remaining.

So do I vote for John Ossoff, the Democrat, to send the Republicans a message that they need to offer us true Constitutional candidates?  And then work to get a Libertarian on the ballot in 2018?

Or do I vote for Karen Handel, and give the Republicans another candidate who may likely have the seat for as long as she may want it?

No, I do not think I will do either.  I am going to vote for None of The Above(NOTA).  NOTA is really the only option for me, other than not voting.  And I will be voting.

Definitely Ossoff or Handel is going to win on June 18th. But there is only one way for those of us out there who are unhappy with both candidates to express our displeasure in a way that can be measured.

Imagine if 20,000 or more voters, unhappy with their choice of candidates, voted NOTA.  Would both parties get the message?  What if the race is so close, that one of those two parties learns that there is a group of voters out there that are being ignored that could have changed the outcome?  Will they try to appeal to us in the future?  Will they offer us better choices as candidates in the future?

It’s up to us to make our voices heard.  And we will not be heard if we just fall in line and support the (insert your party name here) because the other party is much worse.

While we are at it, let’s work together to end the restrictive ballot access issues third parties have in Georgia.  We are only cheating ourselves by eliminating competition before it even has a chance to be heard.

Is there anything less American than denying a candidate an opportunity to run for office because of their party, except in an open election?

As a reminder, both the US Constitution and the Georgia Constitution promise equal treatment under the law.  Every elected official has taken an oath to uphold that.  Isn’t it time they do what they promised they would and treat us all equally?

Picking Winners and Losers: How Our State Government Functions (Georgia Musical Investment Act)

Georgia’s State government is pretty much like every other government.  They love the idea of picking winners and losers.    Whether or not your business or sector is a winner or a loser is going to depend on a lot of things, but it will not depend on being equal under the law.

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HB 155
Georgia Musical Investment Act

A BILL to be entitled an Act to amend Article 2 of Chapter 7 of Title 48 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to the imposition, rate, and computation of and exemptions from state income taxes, so as to create an income tax credit for certain expenditures by a production company related to certain state certified musical or theatrical productions or recorded musical performances; to provide for rules and regulations and an application process related to such income tax credit; to provide for certain conditions and limitations; to provide for definitions; to provide a short title; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.

We apparently need to offer tax credits to production companies to the tune of 15% for Production Companies to come to the State of Georgia.  And if they locate into one of the 100 poorest counties, they could get an additional 10% credit.

And while the tax credit is limited to $5 million the first year, it will expand to $15 million by year three.

If Georgia politicians want a better business environment, then why do they not lower taxes for ALL Georgia businesses?  What game are we playing here?

Is the music industry in crisis?  Is there a reason that they need additional support from the State of Georgia?  Frankly, it doesn’t matter.

When government picks winners, they also pick losers.  Government should not be in that job.

Supply and demand should pic winners and losers.  And under the law, it should not matter if you have started a Music business or a Automotive Repair Shop.  Each should be treated equally.

It’s no wonder the American Public looks at government with disdain.  So much time and energy is spent attempting to engineer outcomes when they should only be administering the framework, and not determining outcomes.

By the way, it passed 157-11 in the Georgia House.  Now it goes before the Senate.  Let’s hope they have a little more common sense.

 

It’s a Privilege to Do Business in Georgia(and So You Must Pay)

Yes, indeed, it is a privilege to do business in Georgia.  I am not speaking from the eyes of the business owner who is grateful of where he has chosen to open his business.  Instead I am speaking of how government views you and your business enterprise.

And as it is such a privilege, the State of Georgia taxes you for that privilege.

Senate Bill 133 brought that to my attention as they are attempting to remove this tax for businesses of a certain size.  It will still be a privilege to have a business, for that language will not be removed, but some businesses will be exempt.

http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/display/20172018/SB/133?utm_source=Copy+of+Eyes+and+Ears+-+GaPundit+for+Feb+27%2C+2017&utm_campaign=GaPundit+Todd+Rehm+Georgia+Politics+04202015&utm_medium=email

Continue reading

Georgia’s 6th Congressional District: Proof The House of Representatives Should Double in Size

Georgia’s 6th Congressional District is providing the nation a very clear message.  There are too few Congressional seats, and each one represents too many voters.

The resignation of Tom Price, a Republican from Georgia, and now running Health and Human Services has set off a mad scramble for his vacated seat.

And at $5250 dollars to enter the race, there were no shortage of people wanting to participate in the chase for the seat.  The winner of this race will likely have it for as long as they desire. Continue reading

The Naked Truth About (Subsidized) Wages

If you have read my work over the years, then you know that I am not a proponent of Minimum Wage.  An adult should be able to work for anyone at an agreed price.

However, a new issue has come into my view I did not realize existed until recently.

Apparently there are groups out there (think Chamber of Commerce) that works with your local governments to hold wages down by:

A)  Making sure that there is Affordable Housing in your area so their workers can live nearby

B) Making sure there is mass transit options so that low cost workers can get to the businesses that want to hirer low cost employees(A Chamber Objective for sure) Continue reading

The Great Billboard Controversy of Johns Creek

For several years now the interests of the Johns Creek residents have been growing in their desire to  both understand and participate in how their closest level of government-their city government- functions.

And, what many of have seen has not been exactly what we had hoped for.  Voter apathy has been mentioned often in City Council Meetings.  Lack of citizens showing up at City Hall for Council Meetings was evident.  City Council members tired of the same citizens making public comments.

Yet over the last three years there have been several events that have awakened the public, and coupled with more ways to have conversations (such as the Johns Creek Post and NextDoor) the genie is out of the bottle.  Public scrutiny is going to only grow. Continue reading

Johns Creek: It’s In Your Best Interest to Stop TSPLOST

The vote Johns Creek residents will take on the TSPLOST 0.75% tax is critical to understand.

Voters are being presented with the opportunity to raise the taxes on themselves, which will effectively increase the spending and size of the Johns Creek City government by 29.7%.  That is not insignificant. Continue reading

Are Our High Quality Schools Sustainable With High Density Housing?

There is another problem with High Density housing that you will not hear any politicians speak about in public.  I am not a politicians, and so I will.

The health of your schools is threatened with higher density housing.  Why?  Because a townhouse that sells for $300,000 will pay 1/2 the school taxes that a house that sells for $600,000 will.  If  both homes have two kids in school, the impact is significant. Throw an apartment complex into the equations and the fiscal impact on schools becomes even  more significant.

It costs $13,433 per student per year to educate children in Fulton County.  No small amount.  Property taxes are essential to school funding(especially those property taxes coming from people with no children in school).

Assuming 12 years of education per student, that totals  $161,196, quite a large sum.

For our example, we will consider an apartment, a townhome, and a single family home.

Based on my calculations from the number of units at some of our most valuable apartment complexes here in Johns Creek, an apartment unit is valued round 110,000 for tax purposes.

Apartment Townhome House
Value $110,000.00 $325,000.00 $500,000.00
School Taxes $1,284.05 $2,918.30 $4,961.11
Cost per Student 13433 13433 13433
% Covered 9.56% 21.72% 36.93%

(The above taxes are from the 2016 tax rates, and assume homestead exemptions have been applied for on the Townhome and house.)

As you can see, apartment dwellers and Townhome dwellers pay far less towards the education of a student than does a homeowner who lives in a more expensive property.

The math makes it clear.  If you continue to add more and more students who are in households contributing less to the cost of education, either property taxes will need to rise significantly or the cost of the education will need to drop sharply, reducing the quality of that education.

And none of this would even be possible today at these tax rates were it not for households with no children contributing to the system even though they have no children in school

Which leads us to this question:  How smart is it for communities to continue adding high density housing, which puts the same strain on school financing economics when you know that they are going to contribute substantially less to those very same schools?