Atlantans would be able to go to the polls and decide if they want to tax themselves to pay for more fire and police officers to end public safety furloughs that could extend into next year.
The state Senate passed Senate Bill 77 on Thursday that could put the question to Atlantans on the Nov. 3 ballot. The Legislation would still have to pass the House.
The referendum would allow a 1 mil increase in property tax dedicated solely to police and fire services for four years for cities that employ more than 1,500 police officers.
Atlanta police officers and fire fighters are now under furlough several hours per week, possibly into 2010.
That’s the equivalent of taking 168 police officers off the street from the 1,650-officer force, bill sponsor Sen. Kasim Reed (D-Atlanta) said.
If the bill becomes law, “You would certainly be able to end the furloughs,” Reed said.
Reed is running for mayor of Atlanta in this November’s election.
His bill would also allow Atlanta to compete for federal stimulus money to pay for more police and fire fighters. Atlanta needs about 2,500 police officers, Reed said. This bill could allow
Atlanta to hire about 150 to 200 more officers with the help of stimulus money, Reed said.
Sen. John Wiles (R-Marietta) opposed the bill, suggesting that Atlantans recall their city council if it can’t provide basic public services to residents. He opposed the creation of more special taxing districts, saying “It’s got to stop somewhere.”