Is there a win-win solution to the APS/Beltline $19 million dispute?

Creative Loafing published an opinion piece by Jarod Apperson and Conor Sen in which they presented what they consider to be a win-win solution to the dispute between the Atlanta Public Schools and the Beltline. Jarod Apperson is a CPA and is now a Georgia State University graduate student (see his blog here) and Conor Sen is an investment manager and demographer who lives in Brookhaven.

In the first part, they take Mayor Reed to task for his inflammatory and often over the top rhetoric on the issue and then they explain the mechanics of the transaction and place the amounts in context for each entity in the dispute.

The following are some extracts, but it is worth your time to read the entire article.

…  Reed should present the benefits flowing to all APS children from the success of the Beltline project.… And the realization of the Beltline vision that the city has seen in the last few years justifies a re-evaluation of the contract to see if agreeing to voluntarily further support the Beltline has the potential to benefit students.

Currently, one reason the district struggles is because many schools have a total lack of racial or socioeconomic diversity, with many of those schools struggling with low enrollment at the same time that schools in north and northeast Atlanta struggle with overcrowding. Investing in the Beltline might help solve such problems.

Excitement for the Beltline vision has already attracted some young, middle-class families to parts of the city they might not have considered but for the project. Adair Park, Capitol View, Westview, and other Beltline area neighborhoods are starting to benefit. 

…At Perkerson Elementary, enrollment increased by 15 percent from the spring of 2013 to spring 2014. Some of that growth can be attributed to the boosterism of a handful of middle-income families. So, not only has Perkerson Elementary grown, but it also has become more economically diverse. If the Beltline can play a role in creating more economically and racially integrated learning environments, the city’s students will benefit.

…A second component of the Beltline vision is job creation in some of the city’s blighted communities. These jobs will help parents of APS students earn steady incomes, keeping families in place and decreasing the challenge of serving a largely transient student population. … Job growth in neighborhoods that are too often isolated from the rest of the city means APS students will have new access to summer work, which can be just as formative for a child as in-class learning.

…investing in the Beltline just makes good business sense. According Beltline CEO Paul Morris, so far, for every tax dollar invested in the project, three private dollars have been invested in the area surrounding the trails.

Once the project is complete …all those improved parcels return to APS’s tax digest. Without the project, similar private investments in areas such as southwest Atlanta might not be realized, and the long-term property tax base supporting schools could suffer as a result.

Apperson and Sen conclude with,

…Investing in the Beltline will strengthen the city’s communities, promote socioeconomic integration, and grow jobs. All of these will benefit the city’s schools, meaning that there is a strong case for the school district’s leaders to consider a revised contract. But that decision lies solely with APS and hinges on what leaders believe is best for students. It would be a shame if the Mayor’s short fuse and penchant for intemperate remarks cloud this symbiotic relationship from view and ultimately delay the Beltline — all of the project and everything it entails — from becoming a reality.

I think they are correct in their assessment – this dispute should never have risen to the level of a “war of words” or “a negotiation in the headlines”. All the parties need to recognize that Atlanta derives benefits from what each organization accomplishes and a solution that keeps the Beltline viable and holds the City to a reasonable level of commitment needs to be found. Such a solution is a win-win for APS and the City.

[Follow me on Twitter @Financial_Decon & Facebook]

One Response to Is there a win-win solution to the APS/Beltline $19 million dispute?

  1. tom tidwell says:

    Contracts are about allocating risk. In this case, the City gambled that property values would increase. The City could have agreed to a percentage-based fee, which would have protected it in the event that the tax digest plummeted but also would have limited the upside in revenue if property values soared. The City’s current position that it should have the right to renegotiate a bad deal is absurd. What if property values had skyrocketed, and APS wanted to renegotiate to get a bigger piece of the pie? One can only imagine the temper tantrum the mayor would throw then.

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