By Joe Earle and Collin Kelley
Atlanta voters head to the polls March 17 to decide whether the city should issue $250 million in bonds to pay for repairs to its bridges, roads, sidewalks and public buildings.
City officials want the Renew Atlanta 2015 Infrastructure Bond issue to be the first of a series of bond issues to be used to address nearly $1 billion in needed infrastructure repairs. They say the $250 million in 20-year bonds on the March 17 ballot will be financed through cost savings by the city and will not require a tax increase.
The city says the bonds represent “the single-largest investment in the city’s infrastructure in more than a decade and will result in clear and measureable improvements in the look, feel and experience of Atlanta.”
A recent poll, conducted by 20/20 Insight LLC, found 63 percent of Atlanta residents support the bond referendum, while 21 percent opposed it and 15 percent weren’t sure or had no opinion. The poll has a 4.9 percent margin of error.
“I assume this will pass and I do believe the note will be paid off with savings. I’d be shocked if there is a tax increase to pay for this,” District 7 City Councilman Howard Shook, who represents a portion of Buckhead, told members of the board of directors of the Buckhead Community Improvement District on Feb. 24.
The city has held three rounds of meetings throughout the city to inform residents about the bonds, but, overall, public debate has been muted. “In my 13 years, I’ve never seen a situation where people are holding their cards as closely as they are now,” Shook said.
Voters will see two items on the ballot. One calls for $187 million in bonds for transportation projects. The second seeks bonds to pay for $64 million to upgrade municipal facilities.
Administrators have said the full list will be approved by members of Atlanta City Council in April.
Shook and others have questioned why city administrators did not complete a list of the projects they intended to finance with the bond money long before the public vote. “I find it extremely frustrating we did not get a project list worked out half a year ago,” Shook said.
At the same time, some Buckhead residents question whether the money would be divided fairly among the different areas of the city. In the past, they argued, the northern end of the city has not gotten its fair share. The draft list of projects on the city website shows about $5.6 million in projects each in Districts 7 and 8, which cover most of Buckhead.
“We’re going to get a lot done,” Shook said. “Is it going to match up dollar for dollar with what somebody in district X, Y or Z is getting? I don’t know.”
A map showing projects is available on the city’s website at www.infrastructuremap.org. A draft list showing 20 pages of projects and listing local projects is available on the Atlanta Public Works Department’s website. To find it, go to
www.atlantaga.gov, click on “Government,” “Departments” and then on “Public Works.”