Atlanta’s budget hopes rest on sale of jail to Fulton
By Maria Saporta
For the City of Atlanta to have a balanced budget with at least $27 million in reserves, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is counting on reaching a sale-lease agreement with Fulton County on the city jail.
Reed told Atlanta business leaders this week that the transaction on the jail is instrumental for the city to operate in the black.
Speaking to members of the Atlanta Committee for Progress, Reed told the business leaders that he could use their help in securing at least four votes on the Fulton County Commission in favor of the transaction.
Phil Kent, CEO of Turner Broadcasting System who also chairs the Atlanta Committee for Progress, said business leaders agreed to reach out to county commissioners to urge them to support the transaction.
The thought among the business leaders was that three of the seven commissioner already were in favor of the transaction. Those were thought to be Fulton County Chairman John Eaves and commissioners Nancy Boxill and Tom Lowe.
The two commissioners that business leaders thought would be most likely to support the transaction were Lynne Riley and Robb Pitts.
“We are very supportive of this,” Kent said. “There will be phone calls made.”
The transaction was on the agenda of the Fulton Commission’s board meeting on Wednesday, but it was held until the next meeting on June 16.
Fulton County Chairman John Eaves said after the meeting that the commission is working towards a resolution and that it should be voted on later this month.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, on Wednesday afternoon, agreed with that view. It was better for the deal to be done in the right way rather that create undue pressure to get it passed immediately.
The city and the county have been in negotiations over the jail transfer for the past year.
The city’s Chief Operating Officer Peter Aman has said the 15-year lease-purchase agreement would save the city at least $10 million a year.
As for the city’s projected budget, Aman said the budget could be in the black by $10 million to $15 million. Part of the reason for the shift in the city’s finances is due to budget cuts.
But Aman said it would not have been possible without the 3 mil property tax increase that passed last summer under the leadership of former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin.
“That represented about $60 million or more,” Aman said. “That was really critical.”