ATLANTA - Now that a September vote on school bonding is out of the question, the Atlanta Board of Education is aiming for November.
On Monday night, the board voted 6 to 2 that the city's Nov. 3 general election ballot should include a proposal for $94 million of bonding to renovate schools. The city council, voting July 20, had rejected an earlier school board proposal that the referendum be considered in a special election to be held Sept. 15.
Atlanta voters have not approved bonds for city schools since 1968, when a $65 million referendum was passed. In May 1988, Atlantans crushed a $150 million school bond proposal.
John Meckley, spokesman for the city council, said the council would probably take up the school board's call for a November referendum at its next scheduled meeting, set for Aug. 17.
"The council is very aware of the need for work on city schools, but wants to go through the process in the right way" of reviewing a proposed bond referendum, Mr. Meckley said. "The council's feeling last month was that it didn't want to hold the bond election before all its questions about use of bond proceeds were answered."
City council members wanted more details on the renovations to be funded with the bond proceeds.
According to James E. Johnson, the school system's associate superintendent for administrative services, the borrowing would help fund a five-year capital program of structural repairs that will cost an estimated $162.8 million.
Mr. Johnson said bond proceeds would be used to install air conditioning, repair boilers, roofing, electric systems, and plumbing, and renovate cafeterias. The school system has not allocated money in the fiscal 1993 school budget for the renovations, anticipating passage of the bond issue.
If the city council approves the referendum, the school board hopes to avoid recurrence of the 1988 referendum defeat by waging an aggressive public relations campaign stressing the need for funds to renovate its aging facilities. The board also will make a special effort to find out what citizens feel are the specific renovations that should be undertaken in the school serving them.
In May 1988, Atlanta voters rejected all six parts of a $308 million bond package that sought approval for $150 million of debt for the Atlanta Board of Education and five separate borrowings by the city totaling $158 million. The city and the school board have separate debt-issuing entities.
The rejection of the school board's request by a 61.5% margin was attributed to the large overall size of the referendum and to voter backlash over a reassessment of property values in the Atlanta area that spring. Officials also said the election's 12% turnout contributed to the defeat.
If the referendum is successful, the school system would be required to raise its share of property tax collections by 1.2 mills, to 1.99 mills. For the owner of a $100,000 house this would result in a $48 increase in property taxes.