Turns out not everybody at the Capitol was happy with the state’s decision this week to spend almost $29 million buying part of the Oaky Woods wilderness from Middle Georgia developers.
Republican leaders of the State Senate sent the State Properties Commission a letter asking them to delay their decision to spend $28.7 million in taxpayer money on 10,015 acres of Oaky Woods.
Oaky Woods is near land Gov. Sonny Perdue bought in 2003. The value of the governor’s land doubled after he bought it. Perdue, who leaves office next month, is chairman of the properties commission.
Bert Brantley, his spokesman, said the state Senate leadership’s letter didn’t arrive until Monday’s meeting was underway and that it had no impact. The panel unanimously approved the deal.
The Senate letter, listing among others Senate President Pro-Tem Tommie Williams (R-Lyons) and Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) as authors, said, “As appropriators, we are concerned with a land purchase by state government at this time and in the proposed amount.”
“Given current real estate market conditions, we believe a delay will give taxpayers an opportunity to voice their opinion without jeopardizing the opportunity to purchase this property at true fair market value if it is determined to be in the state’s best interest.
“Now, more than ever, we must treat every tax dollar we spend as if it were our own. Moreover, we must prioritize every expenditure to ensure we first meet the proper functions of government.”
The panel voted to buy part of Oaky Woods at $2,874 per acre. In comparison, Oaky Woods Properties bought the entire tract earlier in the decade for $1,600 an acre.
Oaky Woods Properties had planned to develop the tract with shops, offices and thousands of homes before the real estate market deteriorated.
Most of the money for the purchase is coming from a $25 million bond sale approved by lawmakers earlier in the year. At the time, the bond was listed as being for “conservation,” but state officials said it was not designated specifically to buy Oaky Woods.
The Oaky Woods tract could have been purchased much more cheaply in 2004, but state officials said at the time that they didn’t have enough money.
Lawmakers have pointed out that the state’s fiscal situation is far worse today than it was in 2004.
When the General Assembly convenes next week, lawmakers could face a $1.8 billion to $2 billion budget hole for the upcoming year. They have cut the budget more than $3 billion in the past few years, and state employees and teachers have had to take days off without pay to help the state stay in the black.