ALPHARETTA, Ga. — City leaders continued Feb. 24 poring through a list of projects under consideration for a proposed $50 million bond referendum in the fall.
As in prior meetings, most of the discussion was dominated by the four City Council members who have come out in favor of the funding source, which residents would have to approve this November. The other three council members, Dan Merkel, John Hipes and Mayor Jim Gilvin, were less engaged but did add occasional comments.
Most of the discussion Monday centered on parks projects, and greater details emerged on costs for those projects.
Parks and Recreation Director Morgan Rodgers provided estimates on some of the initiatives.
The current list includes big-ticket items, such as boardwalk replacement for the Big Creek Greenway at $1.5 million, restoration of two streams at Wills Park for $2 million and upgrades at the Wills Park Equestrian Center for $2.5 million.
The council is set to consider transportation projects at its next meeting set for March 2. Council members said they would like staff to prepare an update on current projects funded by the transportation sales tax. The list, they said, should include status of the projects and whether there is currently sufficient funding for their completion.
City Administrator Bob Regus told council members that, as of the last update in December, TSPLOST projects were about $27 million short of funds.
“The numbers are not that bad,” Regus said, pointing out that GDOT is coordinating some of its improvements to blend with the city’s.
The proposed $50 million bond was introduced in January by Councilman Jason Binder. Since then, three other council members have declared their support and have proposed a $7,500 increase in the local homestead exemption to blunt the bite of any property tax increase needed to pay off the bond. The homestead exemption measure passed by a 4-3 vote, and it now must be introduced and passed in the Legislature before it could appear on the city’s November ballot.
So far, the legislation has not been introduced.
Business property owners are not eligible for homestead exemptions on their commercial property.
Proponents of the bond say the city needs the bond now to upgrade roads for Alpharetta’s growing daytime population. They also say the city stands to outgrow its parks if it doesn’t undertake land purchases before prices soar out of reach and existing facilities fall apart.
Opponents have argued that funding improvements primarily on the backs of commercial property owners is unfair and could erode the city’s relationship with the business community.