The Auburn City Council scheduled a special called meeting 7 p.m. Monday to address the future of the city's bus system and the budget.
Notice of the meeting at 4 p.m. came just hours after city officials learned a proposed apartment complex they were hoping to attract to the town did not get the state tax credits the project needed. The proposed Auburn Hills project was not on the list released Friday of projects approved for the credits, although two other Barrow County projects were on the final list.
"We of course are disappointed; the staff certainly worked diligently to meet the need for our community," said Mayor Linda Blechinger. "We will meet to discuss the vehicle that was donated to us by (the developer). We always said if we did not get the apartments we would decide whether to sell it or keep it for city use. We will also discuss the budget and see where we can adjust." The Auburn City Council approved its FY2013 budget in September based on anticipation that the apartment complex would get the tax credits and begin work during the year, thus generating building permit revenue. The Auburn budget was already under pressure from four years of red ink and dwindling reserves when officials made a number of spending cuts in September. But officials approved projecting $120,000 in new revenue from the apartment complex. Now Auburn will have to find a way to cut more spending to make up for that loss, or find a new source of revenue.
Also now in limbo is the fate of the town's controversial bus system. Auburn created its bus system in an effort to help the developer, TBG, get tax credits for the Auburn Hills project. But unknown to Auburn officials, TBG also used the bus system to get points toward another of its Barrow County projects up the road, Phase 2 of Farmington Hills near Winder. Farmington Hills did get a state tax credit this year, as did NorSouth’s Braselton Court project in Barrow County. The Auburn bus system has been a money losing endeavor from the start with few riders and high cost.
Also now in flux is the political dynamics in Auburn where the town council has been deeply divided over the bus system. Mayor Linda Blechinger had to break a council tied vote twice to keep the system going despite its financial cost and lack of ridership. Blechinger strongly pushed the idea of attracting the apartments to Auburn and was a proponent of the bus system as a way to help get the project.
For the full story, see next week's Barrow Journal.