Published on January 19th, 2016 |2
Norwood: Post city finances online to eliminate controversies
Norwood was specifically speaking to fellow Councilwoman Felicia Moore’s challenge to the legality Mayor Kasim Reed’s payment of almost $9.1 million to the Atlanta Board of Education at the end of 2015, without City Council review and approval of the payment.
The controversy over the $9.1 million payment during the City Council’s winter recess is just part of a longer, ongoing question over how much the city owes Atlanta Public Schools as part of an agreement between the city and APS over use of tax revenues for Atlanta BeltLine Inc.
In 2013, the city made a $1.9 million payment to APS from the BeltLine TAD (tax advantaged development) that was established to provide development funds for the BeltLine, with a promised payback to APS from new revenues generated by BeltLine oriented development.
During the recent recession, the city and BeltLine TAD did not make promised payments to APS for the use of APS’s share of tax revenues during that period.
Last year, City Council did authorize the payment of $4 million of the $9.1 million the city determined was a fair payment toward some $16 million APS claimed was owed to it. But, Moore and Norwood say City Council never authorized the remaining $5.1 million of the $9.1 million.
Moore and Norwood contend the additional $5.1 million payment made by the city administration was not legal. However, he mayor and city attorneys say it was legal under the original agreement made between the three parties.
Furthermore, Norwood said when the $9.1 million payment was made to APS there were insufficient funds in the account the check was written on to cover the amount. The city had to transfer funds in order to cover the check.
Norwood told BCN representatives City Council members were not apprised the payment was going to be made. She said several members of City Council were in the city during the council winter break (between Christmas and New Year) but were not consulted about the payment.
She said if the city’s books were online for review by members of City Council and the general public everyone would have access to the funds being received by the city, being paid out and where the city stands in terms of operating on budget.
Both Norwood and Moore have been long-term advocates for having the city’s finances available online for the public to see, a practice now followed by several major cities. She said the hallmark should be the degree to which the public wants transparency by the city.
Norwood, who chairs the City Council’s Zoning Committee, also urged those attending the BCN meeting to study the analysis consulting firms are doing for the Department of Planning and Community Development related to a planned rewrite of the city’s zoning ordinance.
Norwood handed out copies of a public presentation that had taken place Jan. 12 in Buckhead and pointed out the city will be making final recommendations on the structure of the zoning code and topics and issues to be addressed in the new code during February and March.
She suggested the BCN representatives urge residents and business owners in their neighborhoods to go online to www.zoningatl.com to provide feedback on the study and plans for revising the zoning code. The next round of public meetings will be in April.