Dunwoody City Council members expressed eagerness at their regular meeting last week to spend $50,000 for a feasibility study championed by District 79 State Rep. Tom Taylor, R-Dunwoody.
Taylor said he needs data to argue the case for a constitutional amendment. He introduced House Resolution 486 to allow new cities to form their own school systems.
“I need a study that says this is sustainable, we can do this, and what does it cost? The big argument I’m going to get, like when we did the city, what is the impact to the county?” he said.
Taylor said he is fairly certain of the results but needs a third-party analysis to back him up.
“I can’t just say, ‘I know we can do it because we’re Dunwoody.’ I have to have a study and some data to base it on,” he said.
He cited economic development reasons to break away from the county, which last week replaced six school board members due to governance and financial issues.
“We have great schools in Dunwoody, but you’re part of a system that’s failing,” said Taylor. “What ends up happening is when companies come and look here, we have the perfect model except for that one piece.”
Under normal circumstances, the city council has to wait until its April 1 meeting to vote.
But City Councilwoman Adrian Bonser said two weeks was too long.
“This is too important an issue to wait until the next meeting. We need to have a special called meeting,” she said.
City Councilman John Heneghan wanted to push forward even sooner. “Right now, our city manager is authorized at our direction to fund items up to $50,000,” he said.
City Councilman Terry Nall quoted procedure.
“The $50,000 limit was for budgetary items and we don’t have this in our budget,” said Nall. “That would take a vote. Unless council is prepared to have this come from contingency.”
A note of caution was also sounded by City Councilman Denis Shortal.
“There’s a lot of euphoria going on right now about this issue,” he said. “Funding the study will be one issue. Pushing the issue will probably be a more expensive issue. Taking out of the city coffer may not be a place we need to go.”
Mayor Mike Davis said the city would not be paying for lobbying or campaign expenses.
“There’s no way the city’s going to be funding that,” he said.
Citing negotiation confidentiality, Taylor declined to name a supplier for what may be a single-source bid, but mentioned Georgia Tech as a possible vendor.
The earliest a school system could be set up is the 2016 school year, Taylor said.