Voters will face a bevy of ballot questions on Nov. 6, including constitutional amendments and statewide and local referendums. In various Reporter Newspapers communities, voters will see at least eight, and up to 12, questions on the ballot. The following is a guide to what they mean in plainer English.
State Constitutional Amendments
Amendment 1: Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund
Would direct up to 80 percent of sales tax revenue from sporting goods stores to a conservation-oriented trust fund. The Sandy Springs Conservancy is among the supporters.
Amendment 2: State business court
Would create a statewide specialty court, with judges appointed by the governor rather than elected, to handle business-oriented disputes.
Amendment 3: Forest land taxation
Would alter an existing system of reduced taxation of large tracts of timberland that are under conservation agreements and a formula where the state reimburses local governments for some of the lost tax revenue. The amendment would raise some tax assessments under state collection authority, while reducing the required length of conservation agreements and creating a new, smaller class of tax-break-eligible timberland.
Amendment 4: Crime victims’ rights
Also known as “Marsy’s Law,” this would give certain judicial system rights to people who report that they are crime victims, including the right to receive notice when their offender is released from prison, and invitations to participate in court hearings. Most of those rights already exist under state law, but would now be enshrined in the state Constitution. For commentary in favor of this question, click here. For commentary in opposition to this question, click here.
Amendment 5: School district tax referendums
Would allow independent public school districts below the county level, but serving a majority of students, to call for a countywide, 1 percent sales tax referendum to fund building construction.
Question A: Property tax increase cap
Would limit property tax assessment to a 2.6 percent annual value increase for homeowners in a city that is in more than one county, pays a public transportation sales tax, and has an independent school district. In practice, this new homestead exemption is intended for Atlanta homeowners. But it was made a statewide referendum because lead sponsor state Rep. Beth Beskin, a Buckhead Republican, was unable to get the largely Democratic Atlanta delegation’s support for a local question.
Question B: Tax exemption on certain homes for people with mental disabilities
Would allow nonprofit facilities that provide services to people with mental disabilities to have tax-exempt status when a for-profit business is among its owners due to financing and construction.
Fulton County questions
Voters in Fulton County, including Buckhead and Sandy Springs citizens, will have three countywide questions to decide.
Fulton Industrial District repeal
Would repeal a state Constitutional provision that keeps the area along Fulton Industrial Boulevard in south Fulton as the county’s last unincorporated area. The repeal would open the area to annexation by Atlanta, the City of South Fulton or both, as both have previously attempted to do, creating a dispute that is pending in the state Supreme Court.
Homestead exemption for seniors
Would exempt homeowners over 65 years old from paying property taxes on the first $50,000 in assessed home value. That is a $20,000 increase for the Fulton County government portion of the tax bill.
Fulton schools property tax cap
Would cap the portion of property taxes that go to the Fulton County School System annually at 3 percent or the inflation rate, whichever is lesser.
Local Sunday alcohol sales questions
Citizens in all four cities in Reporter Newspapers communities – Atlanta, Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs – will vote on local questions that would authorize the sale of alcoholic beverages in restaurants on Sundays starting at 11 a.m. rather than the current 12:30 p.m. The question would enact the so-called Brunch Bill legislation sponsored by state Rep. Meagan Hanson (R-Brookhaven/Sandy Springs).
Atlanta Public Schools tax exemption change
Atlanta voters will decide a question that would alter the current homestead exemption of the first $30,000 in assessed value for the APS portion of the tax bill. Homeowners would pay taxes on the first $10,000 in assessed value, but the exemption also is increased to $50,000. The new exemption system would last three years and has support from APS, which says it would reduce tax revenues by roughly $25 million that could be made up elsewhere. The legislation was sponsored by state Sen. Jen Jordan (D-Buckhead/Sandy Springs).
Brookhaven parks bond
Brookhaven voters will decide whether to authorize the city issuing a roughly $40 million bond to fund construction of improvements to several public parks. For commentary in support of this question, click here. For commentary in opposition to this question, click here.