Referendum Asks for Campus Property to Remain Tax Exempt
October 20, 2014
David Elrod says Dalton State is ready to take the next step – building traditional campus housing.
“We hope to take the next step in our evolution as an institution in general, and in our student housing in particular, as part of a University System-wide initiative that includes Dalton State as one of nine campuses where a student-housing developer is proposed to build new student housing on campus,” said Elrod, director of the Dalton State Foundation.
Before that happens, voters will have to weigh in.
On Nov. 4, Georgians will be asked to vote on a referendum that asks if campus property in the University System of Georgia, of which Dalton State is a part, should continue to be tax exempt if a developer builds housing on it for our students, Elrod said.
The referendum reads “Shall property owned by the University System of Georgia and utilized by providers of college and university student housing and other facilities continue to be exempt from taxation to keep costs affordable.”
If the measure passes, it will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2015.
“The referendum will simply ensure that the property on which the student housing is located will remain untaxed in the future, just as it is currently,” said Dr. John Schwenn, president of Dalton State. “This measure keeps the cost of student housing provided by colleges and universities low.”
A strength in Georgia is that higher education is affordable, he said. Dalton State ranks among the most affordable four-year public institutions in the country.
“A large part of the cost of going to college is paying for housing,” Schwenn said. “Our students have access to numerous affordable options for housing while they are in school. We need to keep it that way.”
The ballot measure clarifies that students won’t have to absorb additional housing costs to pay local property taxes, regardless of how student housing is financed.
“When we talk about Dalton State today and how it has grown over the years, we often find ourselves saying that no one in the 1960s knew what the College would become many years later,” Elrod said. “We say that no one then knew we would have 5,000 students; no one then knew that we would have 18 bachelor degrees with more in the pipeline; no one then knew that we would have the Carnegie/CASE U.S. Professor of the Year on our faculty; no one then knew what would happen here. But what if they did? What if Truett Lomax (former manager of the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce) and the four men who gave the land to build Dalton State and the 4,090 voters who voted yes on the bond referendum to finance the College saw the future then?
“Nearly 50 years after these people built Dalton State, we call them visionaries,” he said. “We stand on their shoulders today so we might glimpse the future, too. I wonder what people here 50 years from now will say about us.”
In 2005, the Dalton State Foundation bought the Wood Valley Apartments, which includes 11 acres adjacent to the College. The property was bought for the future growth of the College.
In 2009, the Foundation began leasing Wood Valley to the College to use as student housing. Now, nearly 300 students live on campus.
“We’re ready for the next step,” Elrod said.
Some of that 11 acres is expected to be deeded over to the Board of Regents for new housing.
“The developer would incur the costs of removing three buildings currently on this land, and the new housing should be open in July 2016, just in time for students to move in for fall semester,” Elrod said.