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Kemp signs measure to let voters decide on city of Mulberry

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(The Center Square) — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a measure authorizing a local referendum to let voters decide whether to create a new city in Gwinnett County.

Under Senate Bill 333, voters will decide in November whether to establish a new city of Mulberry, which would cover roughly 25.9 square miles in northeastern Gwinnett County and have about 41,000 residents.

“This is an exciting opportunity for residents in northeast Gwinnett to gain local control over planning and zoning decisions without imposing a city property tax,” House Majority Leader Chuck Efstration, R-Auburn, said in a statement. “As a resident of this proposed city, I have been an enthusiastic supporter of the cityhood effort and plan to remain involved in expressing support for Mulberry when it appears on the ballot.”

Efstration’s office retained Atlanta-based KB Advisory Group to analyze the potential fiscal feasibility of the new city. The firm found that the city would be “financially feasible” without implementing a city property tax.

However, state Rep. Dewey McClain, D-Lawrenceville, said that only 40,000 residents of Gwinnett’s 980,000 residents would be deciding the Mulberry referendum, leaving 940,000 residents that will be affected by the vote without the opportunity to cast a ballot. Additionally, McClain said that incorporating Mulberry would remove $9 million in tax revenues from Gwinnett County’s coffers.

“Somebody’s got to pick it up. Somebody’s got to pick up that $9 million,” McClain said during the debate on the House floor. “It is not a free lunch. It is not a free breakfast. It’s not a free dinner. And it’s definitely not even a free snack. So, who’s going to pick up that $9 million? The other 940,000 people that did not have a say so in how this money is being spent.

“We all know that this should have taken two years, the minimum of two years, to do a study. What my constituents are saying is they probably should change the name to the city of the freeloaders.”

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