Sunday Solutions — Nov. 12, 2023

We’re coming off an election week push, and there’s other news to consider that we don’t want you to miss. Many challenges are universal, so even if it’s not your town, today’s questions might sound familiar. In one town, citizens are asking for more information on the city budget to see why they’ll be taxed. In others, state tax credits for affordable housing seem elusive, and groups join to boost small businesses and economic resilience. Meanwhile, the state and communities outside metro Atlanta look for education answers in charter schools.

Citizens pack a millage rate hearing in Walthourville, Nov. 9, 2023. (Photo: Robin Kemp/The Current)
Citizens pack a millage rate hearing in Walthourville and wait for a quorum of council to arrive, Nov. 9, 2023. The meeting moved to the fire station to accommodate the crowd.

Facing taxes, residents question town spending

Walthourville voters selected a new slate of city council members this week; the mayor race heads for a runoff. On Wednesday, council and residents attended a tax rate hearing to wonder aloud about how the city’s budget fell $700,000 short and why their elected representatives hadn’t paid more attention. The city could lose its charter if city council doesn’t OK a balanced budget, which likely means new property taxes for citizens. Liberty County reporter Robin Kemp went to the first of three public hearing for new taxes. About 30 residents who are afraid they’ll be taxed out of their town came to the hearing, and two council members didn’t show after they were defeated on Tuesday. Read her story here.

A planned apartment development at the old Savannah fairgrounds didn’t make the cut for housing tax credits.

State housing tax credits; Savannah’s bids

A legislative committee has been traveling the state investigating whether tax credits for film, manufacturing and housing make investment sense in their current forms. Last week, they stopped across the state in Columbus to talk about affordable housing and historic rehabilitation tax credits. A story from Dave Williams at Capitol Beat describes the testimony from a variety of witnesses about the value provided so far — 32,000 affordable housing units since 2019. One witness was direct about the credit’s effective shared investment approach for housing: “You take away our money and none of these deals work…But for the state credit, nothing gets built.”

This hearing comes a week after the City of Savannah learned that the state Department of Community Affairs had denied tax credits for its two larger affordable housing projects — 42 units at 1700 Drayton and the 64 senior apartments at the old fairgrounds property on Meding Avenue. The city has pledged nearly $2 million to support the application at Meding; both sites have development plans ready. Here’s the story by Eric Curl at that describes the status of the government effort to build much-needed housing for the growing metro-area work force.

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Test your news knowledge with a few short questions related to stories we published earlier in the week. Want your chance to be featured in next week’s leaderboard? Leave a first name or nickname on your quiz so we can keep track of your score and tell people when you do well.

Leaderboard 11/5/23:
First Place (10/10) – Linda C., Paul
Second Place (9/10) – Bryan, Sandy B.
Third Place (7/10) – Franws, Laurie, Audrey, BC, BBB

Join the leaderboard. Click here to take this week’s quiz.

Entrepreneur week in Brunswick

If you need to feed your entrepreneurial spirit, next week is a big week in Brunswick as Global Entrepreneurship Week returns. Community events are free and open to the public and feature local small businesses today at Porchfest, Womxn of the Year on Monday at Stembler Theater at the College of Coastal Georgia, Lucas Challenge business pitch competition on Tuesday, three events on growing your business on Wednesday followed by an Investor Pitch Night on Thursday. Follow the links for specifics.

Twin Pines Minerals’ staging site in Charlton County near the swamp. Credit: Justin Taylor/The Current GA

From the week

  • Catholic sisters revive pressure on companies to protect the Okefenokee: The mining permit request for Trail Ridge near the protected Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge still hangs, and the Felician Sisters of North America are using their collective voice as shareholders to pressure companies like paint giant Sherwin Williams to avoid buying titanium dioxide if it’s mined near the swamp. Will this mean labels on paint cans that say “No minerals were mined from the Okefenokee for this paint”?
  • New study: Georgia film tax credit brings $8.55 billion: Tax credits are surely a topic for the next legislative session, and a new study says the industry produces a return on investment of $6.30 to each $1 of tax incentives.
  • With or without gas tax, Georgia revenue collections still fall short: Last week, Governor Brian Kemp extended the emergency stay on state gas tax collections for another month as state revenues continue to fall beyond the amount that would have come in. According to AAA, gas prices are under those of 2022 and Georgia is the 2nd least expensive gas market in the U.S. at $2.88/gallon average.
  • Want to catch up on election vote totals? Go here.

Cirrus Academy students walk from one school building to another during a charter renewal visit by the State Charter Schools Commission in late August 2023. (Laura Corley | The Macon Newsroom)

Your second cup: The state and charter schools

Charter school efforts continue to expand across the state as parents and others look for new ways to educate children well and others want to revive older, proven methods. None of them believes the public schools are effective. However, research comparing the achievement scores don’t always support those beliefs. Laura Corley of The Macon Newsroom takes a deep dive in what Georgia’s charter school expansions may and may not mean for students outside Atlanta.

Walthourville citizens confront city officials at first millage rate hearing

Failure to balance the budget could lead to cuts in city services. If the city fails to provide enough services as required by state law, it could lose its charter.

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State tax credit review panel focuses on housing

The Georgia Department of Community Affairs used the state’s low-income housing tax credit to help finance 32,000 affordable housing units between 2019 and 2022, said the agency’s deputy commissioner for housing and development.

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Catholic sisters revive pressure on companies to protect the Okefenokee

Sourcing titanium so close to Okefenokee exposes companies to climate, regulatory, legal and reputational risks, shareholders claim.

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New study: Georgia film tax credit brings $8.55 billion

The study, conducted by Olsberg SPI, a London-based consulting firm, found the film tax break is responsible for nearly 60,000 jobs and produces a return on investment of $6.30 for every $1 the tax incentive costs Georgia in lost tax revenue.

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With or without gas tax, Georgia revenue collections still fall short

Individual income taxes in October declined 11.8% compared to the same month last year, driven by a 30.2% increase in tax refunds the revenue department issued and a 32.6% decline in tax return payments.

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More charter schools are planned in Georgia. What will it mean for students outside Atlanta?

The performance evaluation report for 2021-22 shows few of the 37 state charter schools operating in 2021-22 added value to students who might otherwise have attended traditional, local public schools. The report shows most charter schools perform about the same or worse than traditional public schools.

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Where does Savannah’s little-known mayoral candidate live?

The Current has been unable to find a confirmed Savannah-based home address for Davis, nor any record of her voting in Georgia – two issues that raise questions about whether she meets the requirement that political candidates must live in Savannah for one year and be a valid registered voter to run for mayor.

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Susan Catron is managing editor for The Current GA. She is based in Coastal Georgia and has more than two decades of experience in Georgia newspapers. Contact her at Susan...