Atlanta Public Schools could borrow up to $75M if tax bills delayed

Atlanta Public Schools could borrow up to $75 million to plug cash-flow problems if there's a delay in sending out Fulton County tax bills. BOB ANDRES / AJC FILE PHOTO
Atlanta Public Schools could borrow up to $75 million to plug cash-flow problems if there's a delay in sending out Fulton County tax bills. BOB ANDRES / AJC FILE PHOTO

Atlanta Public Schools could borrow up to $75 million so that the district can pay its expenses if there is a delay in sending out tax bills, according to a plan recently presented by the district’s chief financial officer.

The situation has become a familiar one.

The past four years, the district has taken out short-term loans, called tax anticipation notes, so that it has money to cover costs, including payroll, while it waits for property owners to pay their taxes.

The majority of the district’s $854 million general fund budget comes from local taxes. If there’s a delay in sending out Fulton County tax bills, it can cause cash-flow problems for APS, officials have said.

Once bills go out, which could be as early as Sept. 1, property owners have 45 days to pay their taxes. The district projected it would face a cash-flow crunch by the first week of October.

The school board last week authorized a loan of up to $75 million should the district need an infusion of cash. If the district takes out a loan, it would need to repay it by Dec. 31. APS also would owe up to $750,000 in interest costs.

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Last year, the district borrowed $25 million, the smallest loan it has taken out in recent years.

In both fiscal years 2017 and 2019, the district took out $60 million loans. In the 2018 fiscal year, the district borrowed $100 million.

The district has paid more than $1 million in interest and fees on those loans.

Tax bills typically go out in July, according to the Fulton County Tax Commissioner’s website. But in recent years, legal challenges and other issues have caused delays.