Beltline weighs ‘self-tax’ district to boost funds

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Atlanta Beltline Inc. is exploring whether self-taxing districts along its trails and future transit loop might be used to help pay for maintenance, public safety efforts and other enhancements.

Under such districts, commercial property and apartment building owners along the Beltline would tax themselves, with the added levy used to fund specific projects. The added tax would not be levied on residential properties.

The community improvement and special services districts would be separate from the existing Beltline Tax Allocation District.

The latter uses a portion of property tax revenue to help build a planned 22-mile loop of parks, trails and transit that will connect in-town neighborhoods. The Beltline TAD has failed to generate property tax dollars projected before the Great Recession, which wrecked property values and curtailed collections.

TAD funds have become a point of dispute between the city of Atlanta and Atlanta Public Schools, which contends its funding has suffered.

Community Improvement Districts (CIDs) have been popular methods for organizations in commercial areas to fund infrastructure improvements, streetscapes and security services such as Midtown Blue.

Paul Morris, president and CEO of the Beltline, last week said a CID plan could be presented to commercial property and apartment owners for a vote next year.

“The first priority for us with whatever we do is to keep the Beltline safe,” Morris said.

If approved, the funds would likely contribute to:

— Expanding and maintaining the Atlanta Police Department's Path Force, which patrols the open Beltline segments and connecting parks;

— Maintenance of the trail network;

— Providing some operating and maintenance funds for the future expanded Atlanta Streetcar network, which in its next phase is expected to connect to the Beltline.

Morris said the Beltline plans to go to the federal government for funding to help pay for the streetcar expansion, but before getting grants for construction, it is critical to outline funding sources for operation and maintenance of the system.