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.G.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. More...
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
- 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
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 Finances, 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).
For information about Authority Registrations or Board Member Training, and for assistance with the Report of Authority Finances, please contact the Office of Research.