Atlanta school district to borrow $50 million amid tax bill delay

The Atlanta Board of Education on Tuesday authorized a $50 million short-term loan to help the district pay its expenses while it waits to receive tax revenue. AJC FILE PHOTO by BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

The Atlanta school board agreed to borrow $50 million to cover costs while the district waits for tax revenues to start coming in.

The board on Tuesday approved the short-term loan, also known as a tax anticipation note, which will help the district pay its expenses over the next few months. Officials said the district needed to borrow money because of delays in sending out Fulton County tax bills to property owners.

When tax bills are delayed, it also slows down the district’s receipt of local tax revenue, which makes up the bulk of the APS budget.

Officials had braced for the possibility the district would need to borrow up to $75 million but instead decided to take out a $50 million loan. It will cost just under $100,000 in interest and fees to borrow the money, which must be repaid by Dec. 31.

“I feel very confident in our ability to raise the funds needed to be able to pay the TAN on time,” said Lisa Bracken, APS chief financial officer.

The district has had to borrow millions of dollars for several consecutive years because of tax bill delays. In 2017, APS borrowed $100 million, followed by $60 million in 2018 and $25 million last year. Over the course of those three years, the district paid about $940,000 in interest on the loans, according to APS documents.

“We are hopeful that we will get to a place where bills can go out on time,” said Bracken. “Since I’ve been at APS that has not been the trend.”

Various legal challenges and other issues have caused delays in sending out tax bills in recent years.

This year, Fulton County officials said bills had not yet been sent out because they needed the city of Atlanta to set its property tax rate. A city spokesman previously said the city was waiting on APS to determine its rate, while APS said it completed its work on schedule.

On Tuesday, the Atlanta City Council approved the city’s tax rates and ratified the APS rate, clearing the way for officials to calculate how much property owners owe in taxes and to send bills.

Fulton County’s tax commissioner, Arthur Ferdinand, via a spokeswoman, declined to comment on when tax bills may be sent.

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