Selling a tax increase of any kind in these economic and political times is a tall order.
But Mack Burgess, fresh off managing Republican Public Service Commissioner Stan Wise’s successful primary election campaign, said he’s ready for the challenge.
“We see this as an investment in the community,” said the interim director of the Lanier Islands Parkway Community Improvement District.
“If commercial property owners and business owners are willing to invest a little bit, we can be eligible for really large returns from government grants. We can leverage the money we raise for much more.”
Allowed under the state constitution, a community improvement district is a self-taxing entity created voluntarily by property owners to pay for infrastructure, such as roads and sewer, and services.
Burgess, a Roswell native, is heading the effort to create the district, proposing to levy an additional tax rate of 5 mills for an array of Ga. 347/Lanier Islands Parkway improvements — most notably, enhancements to the bridge spanning Interstate 985.
The tax rate, generally the standard among CIDs, would be only on commercial properties in the district.
In Hall County, 1 mill is equal to $1 for each $1,000 in assessed property values.
To move forward with the CID, Burgess must get the signatures of 50 percent plus 1 of the commercial property owners in the proposed district, a swath of land from Lake Lanier Islands resort to the I-985 area.
And the 50 percent plus 1 “has to account for 75 percent of the total commercial value,” Burgess said.
He is shooting for completion of the project by February, to be eligible for the 2013 tax year, but “the sooner the better. I’d like to be able to get it done by the end of the fall.”
The CID is using all means, including social media, to get out its message.
“But really, it’s just a matter of going door-to-door and spreading the word,” he said.
The whole effort is similar to the days when he worked for Wise, who has no Democratic opposition in the fall.
“I’m running it very similar to a political campaign,” he said.
“This is something that’s going to improve property values. It’s going to drive people to the community and hopefully it’s going to make Lanier Islands Parkway not only a good place to do business but a good place to own a business. That’s our hope.”
Burgess said he believes newly started road construction along Ga. 347 “will be good for our campaign.”
The $14 million Georgia Department of Transportation project calls for a four-lane divided highway, including sidewalks, between McEver Road/Peachtree Industrial Boulevard and I-985.
The DOT also is eyeing eventual improvements to Ga. 347 between Lake Lanier Islands and McEver Road.
Plans along the 2.4-mile stretch call for construction of three lanes and sidewalks. Right-of-way acquisition is scheduled to begin before June 30 and construction is planned for 2014-15, said Teri Pope, spokeswoman for the DOT’s District 1, which includes Hall.