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Emails: LaVista Hills backers questioned city viability | News

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Emails: LaVista Hills backers questioned city viability
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DEKALB COUNTY, GA -- It's one of two new cities proposed for DeKalb County – and new questions are emerging about the city of LaVista Hills. The questions are about the city's finances – and whether it can form without raising taxes, as its backers claim.

The central tenets of the campaign to create LaVista Hills is that residents of the city would get better treatment than they get now from DeKalb County – and that it won't cost them any more in taxes. But question of taxes has raised questions from critics and some supporters.

LaVista Hills would become the largest city in DeKalb County, if voters within its boundaries approve it in November. A financial study done by the Carl Vinson Institute at the University of Georgia said the city, if created, would be solidly in the black—with a surplus of more than $2.3 million. But when a critic of the study questioned the numbers – suggesting the city would run a deficit over $1.7 million -- a flurry of emails emerged among supporters.

One of them said the new numbers show "we're raising the property tax, not lowering it." It goes on to say "so the less we say about this, the better."

Another email said that incorrect numbers could be "fixed" in the legislature in January 2016 -- after the votes are counted in the November 2015 referendum to approve it.

11Alive News obtained the emails from opponents of the city, who said they obtained them via the state Open Records Act. 11Alive News shared the emails with backers of the city project.

"It seems very uncertain," said Marjorie Snook, head of DeKalb Strong, a group that opposes LaVista Hills. "Their biggest concern is pushing this proposal through," Snook said. "And if there's any information that doesn't support their proposal, they just try to ignore it and not talk about it."

Backers of the city effort strongly dispute that. "The city of LaVista Hills is feasible," said Kevin Levitas, a former state representative. He says Lavista Hills would be on solid ground financially—and they say backers aren't hiding anything.

"Nobody should be trying to hoodwink or fool anybody. The numbers are what the numbers are," Levitas said. "And we believe that the experts at the Carl Vinson institute (at UGA) – they don't have a dog in this fight – are the ones to say either yes or no."

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