Bad news for the Beltline

AJC: Court’s ruling is crushing blow to Beltline project

The Georgia Supreme Court on Monday ruled that school property tax money cannot be used to fund Atlanta’s Beltline project, a potentially major blow to the effort to build a loop of transit, trails and parks around the city’s core.

The unanimous decision is a victory for Buckhead lawyer John Woodham, who in 2006 filed a lawsuit claiming the Beltline’s funding mechanism was illegal. He argued that the state constitution explicitly forbade school taxes from being used for non-educational purposes.

In an opinion released Monday morning, the court cited two earlier rulings, including a 1994 decision which held that DeKalb County school tax revenue couldn’t be used to pay for a nearby road project.

So, the court ruled, “it follows that school taxes cannot be used to fund the Beltline Plan which provides a benefit to all citizens, and which has little, if any, nexus to the actual operation of public schools in the city of Atlanta.”

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15 comments

  1. fishtail says:

    Somewhere right now Wayne Mason is gleefully counting the $45 Million bucks the City of Atlanta paid him for his Beltline property and I’ll bet he’s laughing his ass off. Good on ya’, Wayne.

  2. Dave says:

    Good! Maybe these politicians will quit trying to dip into the till like drunken sailors for any money they can shovel off for pet projects.

  3. Ms_midtown says:

    I was duped, the Beltline proponents were selling the project with all those issues accounted for and worked out.
    So much for the TAD concept being a harmless way to fund projects. The Beltline proponents are a determined bunch, as they say these days, “There will be blood”

  4. ChuckEaton says:

    I was on our local NPU when the beltline balloon was first floated. People had reservations about it back then, because you’re keeping all the tax money within a very tight area, but putting incredible pressure on government infastructure neighboring the TAD – schools, police stations, etc…

    I think what started to make people really sick was you had some Atlanta city council members getting “fingers” drawn off of the beltline to enhance areas of their districts that had nothing to do with the beltline.

    I think the TAD idea can be of benefit in some select instances, but you’ve got to remember you’re putting added pressure on the taxpayers outside of the TAD to provide government infastructure to those inside the TAD.

  5. SpaceyG says:

    Where would we be without those Buckhead Boy attorneys!? Now if they’d actually send their own kids to APS…

    If any of us had a dime for every taxpayer dollar wasted in this city for fantasy transportation “studies,” we could all afford to live in 30305.

    Meanwhile, traffic continues to grow to horrific proportions, whereby I had a chance to ask The Mayor recently what can be done (in other words, what was her leadership plan), and she said, basically, that developers could do whatever they wanted, and traffic was a City Council problem, not hers in other words.

    The beltline would fulfill only a handful of do-gooders’ pipe-dreams of everyone in metro ATL suddenly abandoning their cars and taking public transportation (to where?), in a town that has never been able to incorporate public transportation in any way that makes the slightest bit of sense.

  6. Old Vet says:

    Bond lawyers are crying in their beer today! Now if we could just address those run around the state constitution scams local governments use. Instead of issuing general obligation bonds, which require voter approval, they create authorities to build whatever the project is and issue revenue bonds (no approval). The revenue stream to pay off the bonds? A binding contract with the local government to pay for the use of the project! Taxpayers are on the hook but get no say. Also, the obligation doesn’t count against the local government’s debt limitation. They’ve pushed it so far now, many of the schemes are illegal. The scheme is legal only if the project is one for which the local government could issue GO bonds. However, they’ve started setting up authorities for projects local governmetns couldn’t issue bonds for. Also, in theory the authorities are independent entities, but many are set up with the county or city officials being the memebrs of the authority, or at least controling them. I hope some court decides that such an arrangement makes the authority the alter ego of the government and at least count the debt toward the limitation.

  7. ChuckEaton says:

    Spacey-

    I was never convinced on how the equivalent of a Disney Land theme park train ride around the city was going to solve our transportation problems.

  8. Progressive Dem says:

    No one ever claimed the Beltline was going to solve our transportation problems, but consider this. For the past 15 years, population in the 10 county ARC has increased by 80,000-100,000 people each year. That trend is likely to continue. And while we are adding more cars than households, we are not increasing the number of lane/miles. Therefore every year congestion gets worse. If you want less congestion to accomodate ever increasing numbers of cars, start paving. And just like Ga. 400, watch the new capacity get eaten up in a few months.

    On the other hand, we could start a policy of encouraging alternative transportation and mixed-use development to reduce our reliance on single-occupant vehicles and reduce the length of trips.

    There is no silver bullet – the beltline; MARTA; commutter rail to Athens, etc; HOV/HOT lanes, carpooling, truck lanes, scooters, bicycles, walking, streetcars, express busses, signalization, road and intersection widening – are all needed.

    It isn’t necessary to eliminate all cars to improve traffic either. Ever notice how traffic is better on Columbus Day or some other obscure state, federal or bank holliday? That’s because a 10% reduction in traffic can make a huge impact. Alternative transportation and mixed-use developments have the added benefit of reducing our dependency on imported energy (lower gasoline demand=lower/stable gasoline prices) and there are air quality benefits as well. impact. We need to fund alternative transportion.

  9. Rick A. says:

    Attempts such as this are the reason that: A) the status of education in our great state continues to be deplorable, and B) the public has such a distrust of government. Who in their right mind would confiscate tax dollars allocated for education to fund some non-educational project. Are Atlanta public schools doing so well that they don’t actually NEED the money? …(thats a rhetorical question)…

  10. ChuckEaton says:

    I’m still not sure how drawing an arbitrary circle around the city, based on easily acquired property and pimping to individual council members, was even a minor solution to our traffic problem. Especially when you take into account the tax sacrifice.

    It would make a nice tourist attraction.

  11. joe says:

    Progressive Dem ,

    Since Henry County is consistently one of the fastest growing counties in the US, wouldn’t it make more sense to concentrate all of your efforts there, and just abandon the norhtside?

  12. Icarus says:

    I like the solution proposed by the Regular Guys this morning (now appearing on Rock 100.5).

    The Pink Pig is only used about 45 days a year. Why not put its track on the beltline, and then we’ve solved transit in the ATL?

  13. juliobarrios says:

    I think Shirley needs to get some basic accounting systems implemented before she spends much time on expanding the Pink Pig rail-line.

    If she’s not careful she’s going to hand the next Mayor a bigger deficit than she inherited from Campbell.

    She took over an incredibly bloated city hall, compared to other similar size cities, and added thousands more jobs. Something tells me if she hadn’t added those jobs, let alone cut some of the fat out, that the salaries plus benefits is probably more than the $70 million debt.

    Our next Mayor has got to get real about this city and quit viewing the Atlanta payroll as one big voting machine to be fed.

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