Final passage for bill extending college tax exemption to private developers

The state Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would extend a property tax exemption to private companies when they take over operations of University System of Georgia dorms and parking areas.

The 44-7 vote met the two-thirds requirement for final passage of House Bill 788.

The tax exemption is a key part of the University System’s privatization plan that could help wipe almost $4 billion in debt off its books. Under the plan, the system would retain ownership of the buildings and land, but the selected companies would operate and maintain the facilities according to leases that could run as long as 65 years.

A few senators questioned how the tax exemption would work. “As long as its state property and used for the stated purposes, it would be exempt” from property taxes, said Sen. Charlie Bethel, R-Dalton. Bethel, who’s a floor leader in the Senate for Gov. Nathan Deal, said the governor supported the measure.

State voters will get to weigh in later this year on whether to amend the law to allow developers to receive the exemption.

Staff writer Kristina Torres contributed to this story.