Three tax policy amendments included on Nov. ballot

CONYERS - Voters casting a ballot for president will also be asked to weigh in on three state constitutional amendments concerning tax policy.

Amendment 1 would give tax breaks for those who own 200 acres or more to encourage land conservation. The amendment allows land to be taxed based on its current use rather than potential development value. In exchange, the property owners agree not to develop their land for 15 years, or face a significant penalty.

Amendment 3 on the ballot proposes to allow the creation of "infrastructure development districts" as another way to finance added amenities and infrastructure to developments.

Developers could borrow money to build in roads, sewer, golf courses, etc. then levy fees on people who buys homes in the development to pay off the bonds.

The Amendment 2 question would allow school tax money to be used to fund redevelopment projects under a tax allocation district, or TAD.

A TAD is designed to generate private sector investment into an area and ultimately increase property value through development. A local government would issue bonds for infrastructure improvements, which are then paid off through the difference in tax revenue from the initial property assessment and the reassessed land value.

TADs have been used across the state to spur redevelopment, including Atlantic Station in Atlanta. Conyers approved a TAD in December to help redevelop the city's historic district.

However, the Conyers TAD and all others across the state were put on hold after the Georgia Supreme Court ruled in February that revenue from school property taxes can not be used for community redevelopment efforts.

Conyers Mayor Randy Mills said the amendment does not make TAD funding automatic - the Rockdale County Board of Education and Board of Commissioners will still have to sign off on any TAD project proposed.

The vote, however, allows "an opportunity" to bring TAD redevelopment up for consideration, Mills said. He believed school boards in other communities saw the long-term merit of TAD-funded development.

"It gives you another carrot in there to attract developers," Mills said. "It gives them an incentive to come in there knowing their tax dollars for that period of time will be redirected back into infrastructure costs."

The case before the Supreme Court challenged the use of TAD revenue to help fund a multi-use belt line trails and green space circling the city of Atlanta. The high court followed a strict interpretation of the Georgia Constitution that forbids school tax revenue to be used for non-educations expenses.

Georgia legislators placed the amendment on the ballot this year to allow school tax revenue for TADs.

Jay Jones can be reached at jay.jones