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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mayor candidate proposes tax hike vote to fund police

State Sen. Kasim Reed, D-Atlanta, just announced he will introduce a bill to allow Atlanta residents to decide for themselves whether to raise property taxes to help fund police and firefighter salaries.

We'd heard that Reed, a leading candidate for Atlanta mayor, had been thinking of a way to get out front on the contentious issue of police cutbacks during an apparent upsurge in violent crime around the city. Reed is a close associate of Shirley Franklin who ran her two successful campaigns, so it's no big surprise that Reed's proposed solution to the city's cop-funding problem is a tax increase; that's what Franklin wanted to do last summer, but was shot down by the council.

I haven't seen Reed's bill yet, so I don't know the details, but I'm already puzzled by a couple of figures. His press release says:

Sen. Kasim Reed will introduce legislation giving the citizens of Atlanta a choice to levy a 1 mill property tax that will generate more than $21 million dollars solely for police officer and fire fighter’s salaries

But last summer, when the city was facing a $40 million shortfall, Franklin proposed only a .43 mill increase. In other words – and keep in mind I'm no tax expert – it seems that a 1-mill tax hike would generate far more than $21 million. (That is, unless property values have fallen more dramatically than I'd thought, but that's another story…)

But then again, Reed doesn't say that the tax would bring in only $21 million; rather, he says that $21 million of the proceeds would be used for police and firefighter salaries. It could be that he expects additional proceeds to flow into the city's general fund.

He's holding a press conference at 2 p.m. I should learn the details then.

UPDATE: The Senate Press Office says Senators Nan Orrock, Vincent Fort, and Horacena Tate, all Democrats who represent Atlanta, have signed on as co-sponsors of Reed's legislation.

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