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BeltLine funding bill would circumvent new school board vote
Legislation assigning $850 million in Atlanta school taxes to the city’s BeltLine project without a vote passed the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday.
New language inserted in the bill (reproduced below) means the Atlanta Board of Education would not have to reauthorize funds to a Tax Allocation District for the BeltLine. The board’s 2005 vote would be deemed sufficient, thereby averting what would almost certainly be a contentious public process.
The full Senate will consider the amended bill in the final days of the 2009 session. The changes would still have to be reconciled with the House version of the bill.
The Legislature’s Web site does not say how individual members of the committee voted.
The BeltLine is an ambitious initiative to spark redevelopment by adding 22 miles of light rail lines, greenspace and trails, all connecting in a circle around Atlanta’s urban core. The funding includes an estimated $850 million in tax revenue from city schools, which look for a payback down the road in taxes on new BeltLine-related development.
The Georgia Supreme Court ruled unanimously in February 2008 that the state Constitution prohibits school taxes from being spent on non-educational purposes. In November, Georgia voters amended the Constitution to allow school funding of TADs.
Until Thursday, though, the bill would have required the school board to vote again on BeltLine funding. The bill would govern funding for other TADs in Georgia as well.
The Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation condemned the change in a news release Friday: “The Taxpayers Foundation finds this legislative maneuver to be an outrageous abuse of the Atlanta taxpayers.”
Here’s the pertinent language of the bill:
(g) Any consent by a local board of education to the inclusion of educational ad valorem property taxes as a basis for computing tax allocation increments and any authorization to use such funds for such purposes that was approved before January 1, 2009, is ratified and confirmed pursuant to the authority granted by Article IX, Section II, Paragraph VII of the Constitution, as amended by a resolution ratified at the November, 2008, general election, Ga. L. 2008, p. 777, to authorize the use of county, municipal and school tax funds, or any combination thereof, for redevelopment purposes and programs notwithstanding Article VIII, Section VI or any other provision of the Constitution and regardless of whether any county, municipality, or local board of education approved the use of such tax funds for such purposes and programs before or after January 1, 2009.