Early voters have asked us whether we favor the three proposed constitutional amendments on Georgia's Nov. 4 ballot.
The answer is yes. And yes. And yes. To wit:
Amendment 1 would authorize the General Assembly to pass laws creating special ad valorem taxation for "forest land conservation use." Essentially, it would exempt standing timber from property tax calculations on tracts over 200 acres if the land is placed in a conservation agreement for 15 years.
Amazingly, both the forest industry and the Sierra Club support this. It rewards conservation with lower taxes and slows sprawl.
Somewhere in the woods is common ground!
We recommend voting yes.
Amendment 2 would allow local school boards to issue tax allocation bonds to be used for community redevelopment projects.
Tax allocation districts allow governmental entities to use bonds to redevelop blighted areas, then use the improved tax digest to help pay for it. This amendment would allow school districts to participate with other governments in the process.
Supporters say the process -- which school districts used until the courts said there was no authority -- has already raised millions in tax dollars from improved areas.
Vote yes on Amendment 2.
Amendment 3 would allow the General Assembly to pass laws for the establishment and operation of local infrastructure development districts. These districts would have the power to impose and collect fees and assessments within the district, to incur debt, and to purchase, construct and operate infrastructure.
In short, those who buy houses and business structures in a development could be assessed fees by the developer in order to pay for infrastructure -- instead of taxpayers doing it. You build it, you pay for it.
This kind of user-fee system of development is used elsewhere in the country, but for some strange reason is banned by the Georgia Constitution. That's just silly. There's no reason buyers in a new development can't pay for the streets, sewers and other infrastructure. Why should the entire county or city do it?
This amendment will not only encourage more development in rural areas that need it, but will also provide for a fairer means of paying for it.
Vote yes on Amendment 3.
Early voting runs through Oct. 24 at your local election office.