Tax allocation district referendum to be on ballot this summer

LAWRENCEVILLE - Gwinnettians will reconsider a funding method for redevelopment, after Gov. Sonny Perdue signed a bill Monday allowing for a July referendum.

In 2006, local voters rejected the use of tax allocation districts, where bonds are levied to fund infrastructure based on the anticipated increase in tax revenue in revitalization projects.

But the idea caught on, passing in nine cities last November and spurring officials to ask for a revote.

"I think (voters) didn't understand it. They related it to a tax increase or eminent domain, which it's not," said Chuck Warbington, the director of the Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District.

In that district, one of three zones where businesses voted to voluntarily tax themselves to spur revitalization, a project to revitalize the OFS plant off Jimmy Carter Boulevard hinges on the funding structure, Warbington said.

"We need to get the message as to what it will do with regard to revitalization in Gwinnett County," Warbington said. "It will provide a funding tool to spur redevelopment in the southern part of the county."

A tax allocation district was used to build Atlanta's popular Atlantic Station and to revitalize Marietta.

While leaders are planning a voter education campaign, Warbington said they are still awaiting word on whether the governor will allow a constitutional amendment referendum in November, which would restore the ability to use school taxes as part of the revitalization plan. The education levy, which often represents more than half of the available funds for any project, was jeopardized by a state Supreme Court ruling earlier this year involving Atlanta's Beltline project.