Fund Sidewalk Maintenance
Sidewalk maintenance is a basic service of municipalities and should be funded by all taxpayers, not just adjacent property owners.
The Atlanta City Code makes sidewalk maintenance the financial responsibility of adjacent property owners. This ordinance lacks public support and is unfair to both property owners and pedestrians. Enforcing the ordinance faces numerous barriers:
- The benefits of well-maintained sidewalks to the community at large exceed the benefit to abutting property owners. Maintenance costs should be shared by all taxpayers, not just those whose property abuts the sidewalk.
- Sidewalks and curbs are often damaged by illegal parking, car wrecks and other problems beyond the control of property owners.
- Selective enforcement is inherently unjust. Many sidewalk repairs or replacements have been funded by taxpayer dollars, including federal grants, Quality of Life Bond funds and councilmembers’ discretionary funds.
- Over 23 percent of Atlanta residents live below the poverty level. A program that relies on property liens for a large share of its funding is unsustainable.
To implement an effective sidewalk maintenance program, The City of Atlanta needs to do five things:
- Create a comprehensive inventory of sidewalk conditions;
- Develop and use a points-based system to prioritize projects;
- Reduce maintenance costs by making plain sidewalks the default option, cutting administrative costs and using a two-fold approach of repair and replacement;
- Identify a funding source or sources for sidewalk repairs and dedicating revenue to the Sidewalk Trust Fund.
- Amend the sidewalk ordinance by striking the clause delegating financial responsibility for repairs to abutting property owners.
In 2011 nearly 60 percent of Ann Arbor, Michigan residents voted to fund a city-wide, 5-year sidewalk repair program. This new system of funding sidewalk repairs emerged from discussions in public meetings about improving the former system of resident-managed sidewalk repair. The program began last year and is set to repair the entire sidewalk system in 5 years, starting with the most deficient sidewalks.
If given a chance to choose, Atlanta residents would be likely to make a similar decision. PEDS encourages the Atlanta City Council to offer the same opportunity to people here.
Potential funding sources for sidewalk maintenance in Atlanta include:
- Raising the property tax millage rate by 1 mill and dedicating it the Sidewalk Trust Fund. This would bring an estimated $15 million in annual revenue and cost owners of a $200,000 home $50 more in City taxes each year.
- Infrastructure bond funds.
- A surcharge on parking spaces, which The Connect Atlanta Plan estimates would generate over $75 million per year.