ATLANTA (AP) — Gov. Brian Kemp is proposing that Georgia borrow $883 million for construction projects and equipment next year, an amount likely to rise before lawmakers complete the state budget.
Lawmakers authorized borrowing of more than $1.1 billion for the current budget year. The agency that forecasts Georgia's borrowing said the state could authorize up to $1 billion in new borrowing the budget year that begins July 1.
The biggest proposal by the Republican governor is borrowing another $90 million to expand the state-owned convention center in Savannah, on top of $94 million that lawmakers have agreed to borrow since 2017.
The project is supposed to double the current 100,000-square-foot (9,300 square meters) exhibit hall, add a large new ballroom, 15 smaller meeting rooms and 900 parking spaces. Some local money was also planned for what's supposed to be a $275 million project. The expansion is scheduled to open sometime in 2023.
Kemp is again asking for money to build a new headquarters for the Department of Public Safety in Atlanta. He's seeking for $56.4 million to replace the current building constructed in 1955. A state document in 2019 seeking a designer for the project said the new headquarters would have 125,000 to 150,000 square feet (11,600 square meters to nearly 14,000 square meters). The state has already awarded contracts to design the building, manage construction, and demolish three older buildings on the DPS campus southeast of downtown Atlanta.
Kemp proposes to borrow $140 million to build and equip K-12 schools statewide and $20 million to buy school buses. The governor's plan would borrow $208 million for the University System of Georgia and $84 million for the Technical College System of Georgia.
Among major individual projects Kemp proposes are:
— $26.8 million for an aviation training academy at Chattahoochee Technical College in Dallas.
— $26.3 million to renovate the Humanities Building at the University of West Georgia in Carrollton.
— $21.7 million to build a poultry science complex at the University of Georgia.
— $25.5 million to build two 56-bed housing units for the Department of Juvenile Justice, one at the Muscogee Youth Development Campus in Columbus and one at the Augusta Youth Development Campus.
— $12.4 million for a performing arts center at Valdosta State University.
— $12.2 million for a convocation center at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro.
— $6 million for a conference center at Lake Lanier Islands near Gainesville.
Georgia had $9.55 billion in debt as of June 30. The state constitution limits Georgia to borrowing of 10% of state revenue. The state, by policy, sets the limit lower at 7%, in part trying to retain its coveted AAA bond rating, which signifies that outside agencies deem Georgia to be among the borrowers most likely to repay its debts. The state projects that it will use about 5.5% of revenue to repay debt in coming years.