“My face is pretty well attached to this bond issue, but I have enjoyed the dialogue,” Tumlin said as Election Day neared.
On Nov. 5, 54 percent of voters approved the bond, while 46 percent voted against, which brought an increase in their city property taxes.
The bond will increase property taxes by up to 2 mills for up to 20 years. That means the owner of a $200,000 home will see a tax increase of $160 per year and the owner of a $400,000 home would see a $320 annual increase.
The City Council called special meetings and presented public hearings, both in city hall and at other places in the community, to discuss the dilapidated area that the mayor and school board officials said was suffering from high vacancy rates and a transient population.
The bond nearly doubles
By July 10, the majority of the City Council was in support of the bond, and nearly doubled the initial allocation of $35 million to $68 million.
Tumlin said the larger amount of money gave the redevelopment project a better chance to succeed.
“The first thing we have to do is load our economic gun,” Tumlin said.
The vote to double the bond’s size and place it on the election ballot was 5-2 with Councilmen Philip Goldstein and Anthony Coleman opposed.
Goldstein said he wanted to keep the bond at the $35 million mark because that amount had a better chance of being approved by voters.
Coleman said that the redevelopment project was already a gamble by the city, and increasing the amount only raised the risk.
Councilman Jim King said his “bullish support” during the entire process of proposing the redevelopment bond was based on advice given to the council that it was a good location and a good time to act.
King said there are “under-producing properties up and down Franklin Road” and it was time to “push the precious real estate to produce at the tax base (the area) ought to be at.”
Councilman Grif Chalfant said existing apartments on Franklin Road house a large amount of people in a single location, meaning city services and the Marietta City school system must meet a high demand without a large enough contribution in taxes.
“You don’t get your value out of them,” Chalfant said.
The council restricts future use
The vast majority of the $68 million bond will be spent on property acquisition, demolition of blighted businesses and road improvements.
But $4 million from the bond will be used for sidewalks and landscape improvements along Whitlock Avenue from the Square out westward to Marietta High School.
Along with the bond amount, the council approved creating an economic development manager position to administer the urban redevelopment plan for the city.
The consultant, paid for with money from the bond, will create a master plan for the properties in the designated area.
On Oct. 9, the City Council unanimously passed a fiscal policy that dictated any proceeds derived from the sale of property purchased must be reinvested towards the redevelopment project. If not reinvested, the money must go to retire the bond debt.
Goldstein said without this clause, the millions of dollars in earnings from reselling the properties could go into the city’s general fund to be spent on any “governmental purpose.”
Still, Georgia state law prohibits a council from binding the hands of a future council. Therefore, the same policy would need to be adopted in the next council term, starting in January, to remain active.