Having failed to get a state or federal bailout of its deteriorating sewer system, the city of Atlanta is taking a page from Columbia County in seeking new sources of revenue.
As passed along by Carl Miller of Grovetown, the Political Insider column in The Atlanta Constitution reports the city may turn to an "impervious surface tax."
Yep. The good ol' stormwater utility fee, lovingly known around here as the "rain tax." In Atlanta they're calling it the "parking lot tax," and they're hoping it will bring in part of the $3 billion the city needs to fix its sewers.
Columbia County residents in the stormwater utility service area have been paying the small fee since 1999, just slightly longer than the issue has been tied up in court from a suit challenging the fee's legality.
Atlanta may be encouraged that so far Columbia County has prevailed in defending its fee. Atlanta's plan likely will encompass the entire multi-county city and not just one area, which also should help defend it from legal challenge.
Interestingly, the Political Insider columnists write that "city officials are looking at a tax on parking lots, as well as impact fees for developers." Back when Columbia County officials and their consultant came up with the stormwater utility fee, impact fees on new development were also planned as way of balancing the revenue between old and new residents. The idea of impact fees here quickly died; maybe fast-growing Atlanta will have more success in facing down developers.
More telling will be if the city can face down its gigantic school system and the state government. As a fee, the stormwater utility in Columbia County is imposed on everyone with "impervious surface," and we've seen the ongoing fight here between the schools and the county government over whether the schools should pay the fee and any late charges.
Just wait until Mayor Shirley Franklin sends a bill to the state Capitol labeling the Gold Dome as "impervious surface" (a term which, by the way, could accurately describe the craniums of many politicians).
More than evolution
While we're up in Atlanta, it's time to look across the way at the Department of Education, a place these days of anguish. Kathy Cox last week abruptly cancelled a press conference and instead issued a brief statement apologizing for the brouhaha she caused when she tried to substitute "biological changes over time" for "evolution."
Those inclined to sneer at Georgia got a real kick out of all the fuss, but the issue will soon die. Not so easily silenced is mounting criticism from Southern historians who say the proposed new state curriculum barely mentions the Civil War.
"Can you imagine your children growing up without any knowledge about our country's formation?" asks a typical complaint from a Southern heritage group.
This campaign rises during the ongoing effort to fight the March 2 referendum on the Georgia flag, which will end the conversation for everyone except perpetual soreheads.
But March 2 isn't the only important date: For the following 10 days, the state Department of Education will continue to seek feedback on its proposed curriculum (which encompasses much more than biology and history, the only things that have gotten attention). Go to www.doe.k12.ga.us, and follow the links to curriculum.
And a correction: Columbia County Assistant District Attorney Bobby Christine serves in the 265th Engineering Group of the Georgia National Guard in Iraq (not the 256th). "We are looking forward to the return of our co-worker and friend," writes DA's office administrative assistant Jodi Thigpen, who set my numbers straight.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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