Published on January 12th, 2016 |1
City pays APS $9M in BeltLine funding dispute; council wants review
An APS spokesperson confirmed that the payment was received, which could signal that a final agreement restructuring past and future payments in the long-standing dispute between the city
and APS could be close on how to fund the project.
But, not so fast, said some members of Atlanta City Council, who claim the payment was made improperly because the mayor did not go through council to get authorization for the payment.
Alex Wan, the chairman of the City Council Finance Committee Monday is asking the administration to fully disclose details surrounding its $9 million payment and “be prepared to present their justification of this transaction at our committee meeting Wednesday.”
Dist. 9 City Councilwoman Felicia Moore and other councilmembers have said the administration of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed acted without the City Council’s authorization when it transferred the $9 million to APS, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution report.
Anne Torres, a spokeswoman for the mayor, wrote in an email Monday that the administration acted within its rights when it made the $9 million payment. “This is yet another false controversy,” Torres wrote according to press reports.
“The most recent payment of $9 million to APS was made in the same manner as the previous December 2013 payment,” Torres wrote. “Under the 2009 agreement, only one payment has been made in the amount of $1.9 million.” Torres added that records show the city did not go to council to authorize that $1.9 million payment.
“Accordingly, we believe that the $9 million payment was wholly within our discretion to make,” she wrote. “It is important to note that $4 million of the total payment was appropriated by council last year. This $4 million came from the city’s surplus funds, and it was council’s decision to appropriate them for that purpose.”
City Attorney Cathy Hampton also has issued a statement that the administration acted within the rights included in the Intergovernmental Agreement amended in 2009.
“The $9 million payment demonstrates the City’s commitment to finalizing a resolution as quickly as possible,” Hampton wrote in her statement. “We remain cautiously
optimistic that settlement will be reached very soon.”
But Moore said the City of Atlanta’s Charter supersedes an Intergovernmental Agreement. “It’s very clear in the City Charter…that it has to be in the budget, or it has to go through council,” she said. “This was not in the budget, and so it has to go through the process.”
Moore did say that City Council approved a $4 million payment in the middle of 2015, but it never approved the additional $5 million. Therefore she questioned whether the administration was within its legal rights when it made the $9 million payment.
Mayor Reed’s administration and school officials have been in dispute for almost three years over the multi-million contract that outlines the Beltline’s funding model.
According to a 2009 agreement that expires in 2030, the city receives a portion of the schools’ property tax revenue for Beltline development. In exchange, it agreed to make $162 million in fixed annual payments from the Beltline tax allocation district, or TAD, to APS.
APS board chairman Courtney English indicated Monday that negotiations continue, but a resolution may be near. “However, it’s important to remember that no deal is final until it has been approved by final vote of the Atlanta Board of Education.”
Meanwhile, that Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Tuesday that the Atlanta school district could ask voters in May to approve a sales tax worth about $546 million to Atlanta schools, APS’ share of more than $2 billion in potential Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or SPLOST, proceeds in Fulton and DeKalb counties.
The district has about $764 million in work on its to-do list, including school renovation and construction, technology purchases and upgrades, debt payments and new vehicles, according to the AJC report. That includes:
- $202 million for school renovations and to create more space for students in Grady High School and schools feeding into Grady.
- $347 million for heating and air-conditioning, mechanical, electrical, plumbing and roofing work.
- $26 million for high school field houses and artificial turf and upgrades at Grady and Lakewood stadiums and Cheney Field.
- $90 million for technology purchases and projects.
And for the first time for Atlanta, SPLOST money could be used to renovate APS buildings that house charter schools.
The district’s wish list also includes $10 million to demolish vacant school buildings. Although most Atlanta schools are in good shape, at least 30 are in fair to poor condition. The schools in the worst condition are mostly in south and eastAtlanta.
All this comes as the new 2016 List: Niche.com ranking the 100 best school systems in Georgia was released, placing the Atlanta system as 73rd out of the 100. Niche.com also ranked the school systems with the best extracurriculars, facilities, food, outcomes, sports and more.
To read the Niche.com report on the Atlanta Public Schools, click here.