Multiyear Corruption?

Most Georgians know that an amendment relating to charter schools will be on their ballot on November.  But few know that there is a second amendment up for consideration that, if approved, could save the state millions of dollars by allowing multiyear lease agreements.

The Like the Dew community is divided on this amendment and we would prefer not to run this piece unless we can pair it with one that presents the arguments against the amendment.

The article tells us only this: “Though he acknowledged that multiyear leases could be abused, Alan Essig, Executive Director of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, said there is a definite argument to be made for the amendment.” Don’t our readers deserve to hear about those potential abuses that are given such short shrift here? Considering all the cronyism and the absence of ethics governing Georgia politicians, don’t our readers deserve to read an argument against allowing the current crop of Georgia politicians whom may well lock us into leases for as many as 20 years? We invite your arguments.

Over the next ten years, the amendment would save the state $66 million, according to Paul Melvin, who is the director of communications for Georgia’s State Properties Commission.

State agencies such as the Georgia Department of Public Health, the Division of Child Support Services, or the Georgia Environmental Protection Division could get better rates on long-term leases for offices around the state.

Property owners leasing to these agencies would also be more willing to make improvements to leased properties, according to state Sen. Buddy Carter, who sponsored the resolution proposing the amendment.

Nothing in Georgia’s Constitution specifically addresses multiyear leases, according to Melvin.  They’re effectively forbidden, however, by the requirement that an existing legislature not put debt on a future legislature.

Other states already lease property for more than a year.  “We surveyed 19 states and out of those 19 states, 18 out of 19 states used a multiyear lease,” Melvin said.

If adopted, the amendment would allow state agencies that fall under the State Properties Commission, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, and the Georgia Department of Labor to sign longer leases.  Leases by cities and counties would not be affected.

Leasing requirements would change for the University of Georgia.  Currently, UGA uses their foundation to lease teaching space for the Terry College of Business in Atlanta and for UGA’s Gwinnett campus.  Then, UGA leases the space from the foundation one year at a time.

“We would be able to cut that middle man out,” said James Dorsey, UGA’s director of the Office of Real Estate and Space Management.

The resolution was adopted with a unanimous vote in the Georgia Senate during the 2011 legislative session.  State Rep. Jay Neal, who sponsored the resolution in the Georgia House of Representatives, said the resolution was not adopted in the House because time ran out in 2011.

During the 2012 session, the House approved the resolution, along with another bill that placed parameters on multiyear leases.  The parameters restrict multiyear leases to 20 years and allow the Georgia State Financing and Investment Commission to set a yearly limit on the total value of multiyear leases.

Though he acknowledged that multiyear leases could be abused, Alan Essig, Executive Director of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, said there is a definite argument to be made for the amendment.

“If we want the state to run more like a business, if we want them to be efficient, these are the kinds of tools the state doesn’t have that they need to have,” Essig said.

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Editor's Note: In reviewing this story, some Dewers disagreed  with the author's position on this issue
Julianne Wyrick

Julianne Wyrick

Julianne Wyrick is currently a Health and Medical journalism graduate student at the University of Georgia. She has a B.A. in biochemistry from Asbury University and served as the senior news writer for Asbury's newspaper. She has also worked as a science-writing intern for Alltech, a global animal health and nutrition company.