Business owners on Hwy. 278 are awaiting Gov. Nathan Deal’s signature on a piece of legislation that is approximately a year and half in the making.
An act to form a Newton County Commercial Improvement District (CID) is in the hands of the Newton County delegation at the state capitol for the second year in a row at the request of the Hwy. 278 CID association. The CID, consisting of property owners in an area stretching from Ginn Motor Company to Martins Crossing on Hwy. 278 was formed in the summer of 2014 in order for those owners to tax themselves to improve their commercial corridor.
After the CID was agreed upon, a consultant helped put an enabling act in place, which went in front of the state legislature in 2015. The act was passed though both the state house and senate, but was discovered to have some language that all property owners involved weren’t ok with.
Last year’s act stated a project could be bonded without year limitations, part of the act said taxes up to 20 mils could be levied and there was not a clause offering business owners an opportunity to close out the CID. Those three items were against the wishes of the CID association.
“For them it was that the legislation needed to mirror and match what the board wanted,” Kathy Morgan said. “As the legislation was going on and it got passed, what the board thought it sent and what was passed were two different things.”
The legislation was then vetoed by Gov. Nathan Deal, and Morgan, a former BOC chair was hired to coordinate efforts to get the CID approved by the legislation.
Along with Morgan, attorney Lynn Rainey was brought on board to help write a new piece of legislation.
“We hired the foremost CID attorney in Georgia, Lynn Rainey, a Covington native, to advise us and prepare the proposed legislation to be presented to the 2016 Georgia Assembly,” Jimmy Tanner, Chair of the CID association said in a presentation to the Covington City Council recently. “Lynn has advised 16 of the 22 successful CID’s in Georgia. He is both familiar with our community and Georgia CID law.”
The new legislation capped five mils, removed all bond language and added termination language. Along with new language, the piece of legislation also contains a new consent form. In order to get started, the CID must have 50 percent, plus 1 percent of property owners to consent with a value that equals 75 percent of that in the corridor.
Once the criteria is met for the CID, all property owners in the designated area pay an ad valorem tax that would stay in that area to be used on public land. Only commercial properties are able to be taxed in a CID, not residential.
Some of the projects that could be used from the CID taxed funds would be beautification and cleanup projects such as a new gateway into the area.
“Our goal is to provide needed improvements by pooling together and also going after some grant money,” Tanner said.
A benefit to the CID is it can apply for grant money to help with projects such as additional street lights, work ono repairing sidewalks, acquiring new signage and more.
“If we collect $200,000 in taxes, it’s very probable we could collect another $6,000-$900,000 in grant money,” Tanner said. “That money can go to landscaping, sidewalks, signage and lights, utilities, clean up and to hire security.”
The projects undertaken by the CID will be decided by the property owners and a board consisting of: three property owners, two members from equity partners, one member appointed from the Covington City Council and one from the Board of Commissioners.
A timetable, presented by Tanner at a recent Covington City Council meeting and a recent Board of Commissioners meeting, calls for: the legislation to be turned into law, and then the resolution is submitted to the Covington City Council for adoption. Once that is accomplished written consent must be given by a majority of the property owners which own 75 percent of the assessed value of the proposed CID.
Following that, the Covington city council will appoint a board member, ads will be placed in the paper, and an election of board members will take place in June, followed by advertisement of the proposed millage assessment before the board votes on the millage assessment rate in late June.
“These changes will not only increase the return on investment for property owners,” Tanner said. “They are the kinds of changes that get people even more excited about where they live, work and play.”