ATLANTA -- Georgia officials are preparing wha may be the first tax-exempt issue ever for an Olympic Games project.
The state plans to sell about $ 100 million of bonds to help fund housing for athletes at the Summer Games to be held here in 1996. The rest of the approximately $ 150 million needed to build the Olympic Village will be covered by the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, the nonprofit agency managing the games, officials with the committee said.
Officials in both camps said they could not recall any previous tax-exempt issue for an Olympic competition
After the games, ownership of the facilities would revert to the state's university system to be used by Georgia Institute of Technology, which is located in downtown Atlanta.
State officials said they did not expect a bond issue, which still requires the state legislature's approval, to be sold before 1993. Construction of the Olympic Village would take about two years, they said.
The size of a prospective Olympic bond issue, the officials said, will be determined by the exact cost of the Olympic Village, which is still being determined. The issuance size will also be affected by whether the bonds are sold as revenue or general obligation debt, a decision which has not yet been made.
If sold as revenue bonds, debt service would be directly covered by student tuition at Georgia Tech, state officials said. If sold as GOs, general fund appropriations used to cover debt service would eventually be reimbursed from the tuition payments.
"As I see it, there is a very general consensus that the state will sell about $100 million in bonds for this project," G.W. Hogan, the state's auditor, said yesterday. "Beyond that, a lot of details need to be worked out."
According to Jim Beck, Lieut. Gov. Pierre Howard's director of communications, top state officials have been seriously talking with Olympic committee officials about the idea of Olympic bonds for several months. But early last week, Mr. Beck said, Gov. Zell Miller, the lieutenant governor, and House Speaker Tom Murphy, came to an agreement on the broad outline of state backing for the Olympic Village project.
Chuck Reese, a spokesman for Gov. Zell Miller, said the governor would draft legislation for a Georgia Olympic bond issue to be submitted at the state's regular 1992 session, which convenes Jan. 14. Mr. Reese said the governor is working to put together a borrowing that will not ultimately cost taxpayer dollars.
"I don't think we are going to do anything not financially responsible," said Gov. Miller in a prepared statement. "Dormitories pay for themselves -- and if we don't build them now, we would have to pay for them later."
Steve Anthony, a spokesman for House Speaker Tom Murphy, confirmed that Rep. Murphy was a party to the agreement. Mr. Murphy has been skeptical in the past about the use of state financing for the Olympic project.
According to a spokesman for the Olympic committee, the construction project will involve renovation of existing facilities to house 4,600 athletes and new housing for about 9,400 athletes. When this is converted to student housing it would provide quarters for 9,100 students. The committee's contribution to the Olympic Village, the spokesman said, has been calculated at $5,000 per new athlete bed.
Mr. Hogan, Georgia's auditor, noted that the state has recently begun to use guaranteed revenue bonds for state projects -- reversing an 18-year tradition of selling only general obligation debt.
In June, Georgia sold a $96.1 million offering through the Georgia State Tollway Authority, and in July the state's Environmental Facilities Authority sold a $50 million issue.
Georgia has about $2.6 billion of general obligation debt, which is rated AA-plus by Standard & Poor's Corp., Aaa by Moody's Investors Service, and AAA by Fitch Investors Service Inc.
Claire Cohen, an executive vice president at Fitch, said that if the bonds are sold as guaranteed revenue debt, "it is important to be careful to make them truly self-supporting."