City to county: Show us the money

FOREST PARK — It’s Forest Park’s money and officials want it now.

Forest Park City Manager John Parker said he has been trying for months to get Clayton County Finance Department to release about $41,000 in funds earmarked for the city’s Tax Allocation District.

Parker said the county simply has not responded.

“The county has about $41,000 it is holding for us and has been holding for a while,” Parker told City Council Monday night. “They’ve received more than one request to transfer the money to Forest Park.”

Mayor Pro Tem Sparkle Adams asked if there was a reason for the hold-up.

“I have no idea. The money belongs to us,” said Parker. “Hopefully, one day, we shall receive those funds.”

City Attorney Robert Mack has been directed to write a letter to the county attorney to “put the wheels in motion,” said Adams.

Clayton County County Manager Wade Starr said this issue has to do with the wording of the resolution between the two governments.

“The problem is we need to have language that speaks to how the money will be spent,” he said. “There is nothing in the resolution that specifically states that.”

Starr said he will talk to the county attorney and to Parker to get the verbage needed to transfer the money. He said Parker was unavailable Tuesday.

“The money is just sitting there,” he said. “I know we need to get it to them but the Finance Department won’t send out money without the proper wording in that resolution.”

Parker said the city set up the TAD for Main Street and Fort Gillem redevelopment, and the county agreed to participate in collecting taxes for the projects. Because Forest Park is in charge of the redevelopment and is handling the budgets, the county’s portion is supposed to funnel into the city’s coffers.

“Once a year, normally, the county transfers from its account to the city’s,” said Parker. “We have a separate account for those funds because they have to be carefully tracked. We have to be careful how we spend that money.”

According to the Georgia Municipal Association, TADs have been used in the state since 1992, seven years after the General Assembly gave local governments the authority to sell bonds to finance infrastructure and other redevelopment costs within a specifically-defined area. When using a TAD, a city designates a specific geographic area that has the potential for redevelopment, but which suffers from blight or other economically or socially distressed conditions, according to the association.

Parker said as long as the money sits in a county account, it isn’t earning interest.

“I like to try to maximize these dollars to go as far as possible,” he said.

Granted, the city isn’t ready to access those funds yet but Parker said that isn’t the point.

“I want it where I can access it when we get ready to do so, you just never know what might happen,” he said. “We need to get this cleared up.”

If Mack’s letter fails to get a response, Parker said the city can file a complaint in the courts to force the county to cough up the funds.

“We can go to a judge but we want to avoid that,” he said.