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Atlanta schools plan to renegotiate BeltLine deal


Atlanta school officials took action Monday to keep some or all of an $18 million pot collected for the city’s BeltLine project.

The Board of Education voted to change the effective date of its decision to allow school tax money to be spent on the BeltLine. The board first OK’d the funding in 2005. Under a complicated resolution that you really don’t want to read, the board said its decision will take effect this year instead.

In the meantime, the board plans to renegotiate the split for the $18 million that’s already in the bank.

School officials emphasized they still back the BeltLine. “We voted to support the beltline in December of 2005, and that support level is still there,” board Chair LaChandra Butler Burks said.

Here’s what it boils down to:

What’s at stake: $18 million that has not been spent because BeltLine bonds have not been issued.

Who cares?: School officials faced with the unpleasant prospect of cutting their 2010 budget.

Who wants what: APS proposes to balance its 2010 budget with $10 million in cuts from instruction, $10 million from operations and a $6 million fund transfer. They’d like to hang on to at least $10 million of the BeltLine money.

Now what? APS begins negotiations with the Atlanta Development Authority next week and wants to wrap it up by June 1.

HOW much money? APS has committed $850 million to the BeltLine, about a third of total funding for the project. The schools expect to make all that back and more from taxes on BeltLine-related development.

What the heck is that? The BeltLine is an ambitious initiative to spark redevelopment with 22 miles of new light rail lines, greenspace and trails in a circle around Atlanta’s blighted urban core.

Why are we talking about this?: The Georgia Supreme Court ruled last year that spending school tax money on non-school purposes is unconstitutional. Voters amended the Constitution in November to make that OK, and the Legislature passed a bill as a follow-up. But officials have been arguing whether school boards should be allowed to vote again on whether to approve funding for Tax Allocation District projects such as the BeltLine.





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