The Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. board approved a revised budget for the 2017 fiscal year that includes plans to issue three series of bonds, including $40 million for capital projects, $20 million for debt repayment, $7.5 million for affordable housing and $2.5 million for economic development.
The revised projected budget for fiscal year 2017 is $69.6 million. Of that, the largest amount – $26.6 million – will be spent on parks and trails. ABI plans to spend $24.7 million on real estate asset management and $7.1 million on transit and transportation. The next largest expenditure is for salaries and benefits, coming in at $5.8 million.
The revised 2017 budget also increases funding for affordable housing to $2.2 million. That money is separate from the $7.5 million from bond money that will be spent over the next few years.
The board approved the budget in a special called meeting Wednesday morning. The budget will now go to Invest Atlanta for final approval.
The decision to revise the budget and issue new bonds came after recently revised numbers showed the tax allocation district, or TAD, revenue projections for fiscal year 2017 increased from $27.5 million to $31.2 million, Marshall Norwood, chief financial officer for ABI, told the board.
At the end of the meeting, Ernestine Garey, who is the chief operating officer of Invest Atlanta as well as a ABI board member, told board members she thought ABI had done a great job of putting together the revised budget. They had worked closely with Invest Atlanta during the process, she noted.
This is the first time ABI has issued new bonds since 2008-09. After the meeting, Norwood said the ABI took several things into consideration in deciding to issue the bonds. The primary consideration was the recent increased projections in TAD revenue and the strong market environment. The fact that interest rates are low but expected to increase soon was also a consideration. The recently resolved dispute with Atlanta Public Schools was also a factor, he said.
Earlier this year, ABI resolved a multi-year dispute with Atlanta Public Schools, reducing the amount of money ABI will pay the school system.
The bonds issued will essentially be divided into three series, Norwood told board members.
The first series is essentially a refunding or refinancing to take advantage for lower interest rates and would not result in any “new money” available to spend. The second series will be $20 million to cover outstanding loans, of which $9 million will go to the city of Atlanta and $10 million will go to the Atlanta Public Schools.
The third series will result in $50 million in “new money” that ABI will have available to spend over the next 3 to 4 years. The additional bonds will increase ABI’s debt service. However, Norwood told the board that TAD revenue has increased recently and is projected to continue a 3 percent growth over the next few years.
Norwood said he feels comfortable with the debt load ABI is assuming, but acknowledged it is harder to predict how safe the debt load will be three or four years in the future.
“For FY 17, I think it is strong,” he said. “I think the challenge is projecting out. In the short term, that’s a space where you can feel more comfortable… I think the further out you get – it’s like trying to predict Nasdaq.”