Forest Park to vote on next steps in FAA fuel funding loss

Forest Park's City Council are scheduled to decide Monday night whether to join other county entities in hiring Marshall Mitchell to find solutions for the funding hole left by the FAA's jet fuel tax prohibition. (Special Photo)

FOREST PARK — The Forest Park City Council tabled an item on Monday night’s agenda that would have the city join other Clayton County “entities” to hire a financial consultant in the quest to replace public school funding lost when the jet fuel tax was suspended July 1.

City sources said Monday night that the decision was delayed because of the recent special session at the Capitol.

On Tuesday, State Rep. Valencia Stovall said the special session would not make any difference in terms of postponing the vote because “the county was prevented by the FAA ruling to charge any taxes on jet fuel tax. The vote at the special session just put it into state statute.”

Forest Park Mayor Angelyne Butler told the News, “In sum, we are looking to explore all options for replacing the lost aviation fuel tax revenue.” Butler later said that that would include some budget cuts.

The agenda posted on the city’s website reads in part, “This agreement is for the purpose of assisting the ‘Clayton Entities’ with exploring options on how to replace this revenue that for decades [has] been used to roll back local ad valorem millage rates and fund capital improvement projects. The agreement would be with Marshall Mitchell & Associates and costs [would be] shared by all participating governments.”

Stovall said that the “entities” had agreed on a shared cost for services and that no one from the city had been in touch with her about either the special session or Mitchell.

Clayton County, Clayton County Public Schools, and the various municipalities within the county (the “entities”) all relied on the jet fuel tax money to fund the school system and local capital improvement projects. But the Federal Aviation Administration said its policy forbade using that money for anything other than aviation purposes.

That funding compensated residents somewhat for the inconvenience of living under the traffic, noise and pollution of the world’s busiest airport. Although Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport sits on Clayton County land, the airport itself is run by the city of Atlanta, which reaps most of the financial rewards.

The “entities” decided to file a petition in U.S. District Court opposing the FAA’s interpretation of its rule, but lost at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

In July, Gov. Nathan Deal had no choice but to order the local option jet fuel sales tax be suspended. To give the “entities” a little time to find other funding sources, the state and Delta Air Lines Inc. agreed to fund the shortfall through the expiration dates. The state is funding the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST), which covered capital projects, through 2021, while Delta is funding the Educational Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (E-SPLOST) through December 2o19.

The proposed resolution would authorize “the Entering into an Agreement with Marshall Mitchell & Associates Inc., with respect to Revenue Recovery Services.”

Mitchell, 70, of Stone Mountain, is an accountant and consultant with Fincher Denmark LLC, a firm that handles legal matters for Forest Park, Jonesboro, Lake City, Morrow, and about two dozen other municipalities in metro Atlanta.

The News was unable to reach Mitchell for comment as to possible next steps by press time.

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