Local Government Authorities
- Basic Info
Local government authorities are separate entities created for a specific public purpose. Local governments create authorities as a means of providing a wide range of services to their citizens and have used them in increasing numbers to deliver services. The 1992 Census of Governments notes that authorities are by far the most rapidly growing type of government. Realizing the ever-increasing role authorities play in service delivery at the local government level, the General Assembly passed the Local Government Authorities Registration Act O.C.G.A. 36-80-16 during the 1995 legislative session. This act requires local government authorities to register annually with the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) beginning January 1, 1996. The act also specifies that local government authorities may not incur any debt or credit obligations after January 1, 1996, unless they are registered. Prior to this legislation, there was no official record of how many authorities were operating within the state.
Overview Of Registered Local Government Authorities
As in the rest of the nation, Georgia's local government authorities have been steadily growing since the 1950s. The growth in authorities reflects the increased public demand for specialized services and local government's reliance on alternative methods of service delivery. Authorities are often better suited to deliver these services since they focus on one specific function, allowing a greater degree of concentrated effort in providing services. Financial considerations are also a very large part of the decision to provide services through an authority. As new programs are initiated, or new services required, the establishment of authorities may reduce the financial burden on cities and counties. Constitutional debt limitations are also an important reason for the increase in authorities since they are less restricted in their efforts to raise both capital construction and operating expenditure funds.
Method Of Creation
Under Georgia Statute, local government authorities can be created in three ways: by general enabling act, local laws, and Constitutional Amendments. There are 11 types of authorities that can be created through a general enabling act:
- Development Authority
- Downtown Development Authority
- Hospital Authority
- Housing Authority
- Joint Development Authority
- Recreation Authority
- Regional Jail Authority
- Regional Solid Waste Management Authority
- Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly Authority
- Resource Recovery Development Authority
- Urban Residential Finance Authority (municipalities over 350,000)
Cities or counties are authorized to create authorities through general enabling legislation by passing an ordinance or resolution. The majority of authorities registered with DCA fall within this category.
Other authorities are formed under local law, to create a single, unique local government authority. Some authorities are created through this means even if there is a general enabling statute available. For example, several development and downtown development authorities were created under local law rather than general enabling statute.
The third possible method of creating a local government authority is through a Constitutional Amendment. These are similar to local laws; however, they must be approved by the voters of the affected jurisdiction and, as such, are included in the Constitution. Authorities can no longer be created by Constitutional Amendment, but there are some existing authorities that were created this way. Most of the constitutionally created authorities are development authorities.
Authorities can be created to serve a single jurisdiction or may be established to provide services to multiple cities or counties. Most of the authorities registered with DCA were created to serve a single jurisdiction. Some authorities, however, are by their nature set up to serve more than one jurisdiction, such as regional solid waste authorities, regional jail authorities, and joint development authorities. Examples of other authorities that serve multiple jurisdictions include airport, hospital, housing, and development authorities.
Local government authorities may also function as either dependent or independent entities. If an authority's finances are included in a local government's audit or financial statements, or if its operating decisions are made by a local government's executive officer or governing board, it is considered to be dependent. All other authorities are classified as independent. Of those authorities registered with the Department, most indicated they were independent.
As mentioned earlier, local government authorities are established to carry out a specific public purpose. These purposes can include economic development, hospital operations, housing, the operation of a water and sewer system, and others. The largest percentage of authorities registered with DCA are development authorities, including downtown development, industrial development, and joint development authorities. The next most common type of authority is housing, followed by hospital and water and sewer.
DCA provides an annual on-line directory of registered local government authorities. To find our more about this directory or get additional information on the authority registration process, please contact the Office of Research
Report of Registered Authority Finances
State law requires all local authorities that are authorized to issue bonds under the Georgia Constitution and laws of this state O.C.G.A 36-81-8 to submit to the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) an annual report of revenues, expenditures, assets, and debts. This requirement is in addition to the authority registration requirements. From these reports, DCA generates a consolidated, statewide report that is intended to provide useful comparative financial information to assist local taxpayers and policy-makers in better understanding and evaluating local government service delivery and operations.
Prior to fiscal years ended in 2003, authorities reported to DCA using the Independent Authority Bonded Indebtedness Survey. Beginning with fiscal years ended in 2003, this survey was replaced with the Report of Registered Authority Finance which more adequately describes the financial data required, and more closely identifies which authorities required to submit this report (all authorities meeting the criteria in the first paragraph above, irrespective of whether they are included in the audited financial statements of a local government jurisdiction).