There's a bona fide Beltline funding showdown brewing! A lawsuit challenging the funding mechanism for major projects like the Beltline — one that involves your tax dollars — has made its way to the Georgia Supreme Court. More than four years ago, the Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation filed a lawsuit against Atlanta schools and the Atlanta Development Authority (stick with us here, it's important) because they were peeved that redevelopment projects on the Beltline and Perry Bolton "tax allocation districts," or TADs, were basically funded with property taxes. Essentially, that TAD money is borrowed money, which is then repaid through school property tax and municipal tax revenue. The foundation thinks that's unconstitutional, because the spending isn't directly tied to education. Dig?
It's a long and even-more-winding road from there, but basically several courts and/or judges have decided since then that none of that violates a) the Constitution, or b) the Atlanta City Charter. On Monday, though, lawyers on each side of the argument will make pitches in front of the state Supreme Court. The attorneys for the plaintiffs will essentially argue based on an old case called Woodham v. City of Atlanta, during which the Supreme Court decided that "we hold that school tax funds levied and collected by the school system cannot constitutionally be applied to benefit the Beltline project." Cut and dry, right?
Not so fast!
Since then, the state government has amended the so-called "Redevelopment Powers Law," giving counties and school boards the power to include educational property taxes for redevelopment projects.
The attorneys for the school system, the city and the development group are calling the other side's understanding of the Woodham decision "flawed." They, obviously, side with the previous trial and appeals courts that said everything was all gravy. Come Monday, both sides will be allotted 20 minutes in front of the justices, who then have several months to make a decision. It's unclear exactly what kind of impact a successful appeal might have on the Beltline or Perry Bolton projects — but the plaintiff originally asked for all "illegally levied taxes" to be refunded to taxpayers or redirected toward educational purposes. Beltline proponents: Does this make you nervous?
— By Curbed Atlanta contributor Tyler Estep