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11 December 2013

Questions Surround Ferdinand's Failure to Certify Airport West CID

By all accounts, the Airport West Community Improvement District (CID) was a done deal.

CID organizers received the blessing of Fulton County Commissioner Bill Edwards and other regional and local officials. $145,000 was raised to fund initial CID operations, including $50,000 from the City of College Park and $15,000 from Woodward Academy. Representatives with the proposed Airport West CID told Georgia Unfiltered, in June, that they submitted documentation to Fulton County Tax Commissioner Arthur Ferdinand showing the proposed CID met all the requirements under state law.

Why, then, did Ferdinand fail to certify the Airport West CID, costing the group funding estimated at more than $6 million this year?

This is the question business leaders are asking as they try to salvage the Airport West CID for 2014.

CBS Atlanta reports that Airport West CID supporters are accusing Fulton County Tax Commissioner Arthur Ferdinand of "stalling progress" [King, Christopher (10 December 2013). South Fulton residents accuse tax commissioner of stalling progress. WGCL-TV. Retrieved on 11 December 2013.].

Through open records requests, Georgia Unfiltered obtained emails suggesting that Ferdinand repeatedly moved the goal posts on the Airport West CID; first saying, 4 November, that the proposed CID did not meet the required threshold to form.

"The latest analysis show 46% of property owners representing 72% of property values have consented to the CID formation," Ferdinand's email reads.

State law requires 50 percent of the owners of real property representing at least 75 percent by value of all real property within the proposed CID must first provide written consent before the community improvement district can be formed.

A second email, dated 25 November, from Ferdinand reads as follows:

Recently, my office received, for the first time in the months since we’ve been reviewing documents for this proposed CID, information purporting to show the requisite number of consents necessary for certification. However, in reviewing the current set of documents, my office conducted an initial sampling of the consents provided and found an error rate of 20% among those consents. Based on that discovery, we are currently conducting a full review of each consent to ensure – as required by law – that the proposed CID meets the minimum criteria of state law. Upon the completion of this review, which my staff is diligently performing in addition to their everyday duties, the proposed CID may be certified if and only if the required owner consents meet the minimum criteria.

In a May newsletter appearing on their website, Airport West CID organizers proudly proclaimed "they delivered approvals from property owners for real estate worth $529 million in the Camp Creek Parkway area west of Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport to the Fulton County Tax Commissioner’s office" on 11 May 2013.

Below are the emails from Fulton County Tax Commissioner Arthur Ferdinand obtained via open records requests:

Ferdinand Nov 4 Email to Electeds

Ferdinand Nov 25 Email to Electeds

The Airport West CID can still be formed, but the delays by Tax Commissioner Ferdinand could delay the start of various planned projects and further risk access to funds and grants from a variety of sources.