Tag Archives: Georgia

Atlanta bribery scandal leads to more checks on emergency contracts

Source: Leon Stafford, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 8, 2017

In the wake of the ongoing City Hall bribery probe and scandal and revelations that “pay-to-play” cost Atlanta millions after the 2014 ice storm, the Atlanta City Council is putting in new controls to hold those responsible for issuing emergency contracts accountable. Atlanta department heads who sign off on contracts costing more than $100,000 or 20 percent above market rates during emergencies will now have to explain the spending to council, including why a particular contractor was chosen and any connections the contractor have to City Hall officials. The moves by the council come two weeks after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News reported that a contractor at the center of the City Hall bribery investigation made millions on emergency contracts during 2011 and 2014 winter storms. … The new rules — adopted earlier this week — are part of numerous pieces of legislation Council has introduced to bring more transparency to City Hall since the federal probe was revealed in late January. …

Unease Spreads in Atlanta as a City Contracting Scandal Brews
Source: Richard Fausett, The New York Times, February 21, 2017

The brick, adorned with a threatening message, crashed through the window of a prominent contractor’s dining room here in September 2015, apparently sometime between dusk and dawn. For some time, news of the incident failed to reverberate much beyond the home itself. The same went for the dead rodents that had been simultaneously placed on the doorstep of the contractor, Elvin R. Mitchell Jr., and the message: “ER, keep your mouth shut!!! Shut up.” … But in recent weeks, the brick, the rodents and the threat have become troubling symbols of a widening federal bribery and corruption investigation revolving around the granting of city contracts. The inquiry has already resulted in Mr. Mitchell and a second contractor pleading guilty to federal bribery charges, and it is spreading unease through the civic culture of Atlanta. Municipal contracting here has served a historically important role in the effort to spread wealth to minority businesses, but it has also, at times, been a source of explosive scandal. None of the evidence has implicated the city’s term-limited Democratic mayor, Kasim Reed, one of the South’s most prominent African-American politicians. But the situation has prompted Mr. Reed to defend his legacy, and to make a forceful, and disarmingly personal, proclamation of innocence.

… In January, Mr. Mitchell, 63, the owner of several Atlanta-area construction companies, was arraigned on conspiratorial bribery and money laundering charges of paying more than $1 million to win city contracts. As part of a guilty plea, Mr. Mitchell agreed to cooperate with federal investigators. On Feb. 8, the second contractor, Charles P. Richards Jr., 64, was arraigned on charges of paying $185,000 in bribes. The authorities said Mr. Richards conspired with Mr. Mitchell in the pay-to-play scheme from 2010 to August 2015. Last week, Mr. Richards also pleaded guilty in federal court and is cooperating with investigators. In both cases, the authorities said, the men gave money to an unidentified individual on the belief that it would get them city contracts. City contracting here has long been both a source of civic pride and lingering suspicion. … But high-profile contracting scandals have also resulted in prison terms for several Atlanta politicians and business executives. … It is unclear where the evidence will lead, but court documents suggest that investigators have been paying attention to a woman named Mitzi Bickers, a pastor, political consultant and former president of the Atlanta school board. … A subpoena that was discovered among the 406 boxes of City Hall documents showed that federal officials have asked the city to turn over all correspondence to and from Ms. Bickers. Ms. Bickers has not been charged with any crime. … At his news conference, Mr. Reed said he expects wrongdoers to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. …

ICE detainees are asking to be put in solitary confinement for their own safety

Source: Spencer Woodman, The Verge, March 10, 2017

… Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contracts out many of its detention facilities to private prison corporations like CoreCivic — formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) — and the GEO Group, which have seen significant increases in their stock prices since Donald Trump’s election. Hundreds of logs obtained by The Verge through a Freedom of Information Act Request detailing the use of solitary confinement at three of these privately run ICE facilities provide a window into the conditions of desperation and violence that immigrants, including those diagnosed with mental illness, can face inside such detention centers. The logs show that life inside the facilities can be so dangerous and hostile that numerous detainees have voluntarily admitted themselves to solitary confinement just to seek refuge from the general population. In other cases documented in the logs, detainees were disciplined with isolation for perpetrating acts of violence, sexual assault, or disruption; yet others were placed in solitary for more minor infractions, such as charging detainees for haircuts or “horse-playing.” In dozens of instances at a Georgia facility, detainees were placed in solitary confinement for hunger striking; in one case, an detainee with a mental illness was placed in isolation at the request of ICE for reasons that facility officials writing the log readily admitted they did not understand.

Encompassing the entirety of 2016, the logs cover two CoreCivic facilities in Lumpkin, Georgia; Eloy, Arizona; and a third center in Pearsall, Texas, operated by the GEO Group. The logs were generated for ICE headquarters to detail two categories of detainees: those placed in isolation for more than two weeks, and those who had a range of “special vulnerabilities,” including physical or mental health diagnoses, detainees who had been the victims of sexual assault or those at risk for suicide. In total, the logs list more than 300 instances of this sort of confinement being used last year at the three facilities, with the Lumpkin facility deploying the use of this confinement at a significantly higher rate than the other two detention centers. …


Source: Spencer Woodman, The Verge, February 27, 2017

Beginning last April, and picking up in the weeks following the November election, dozens of detainees at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in rural Georgia went on hunger strike in protest of their detention. The private prison corporation that runs the facility, CoreCivic — formerly Corrections Corporation of America — responded swiftly to the expanding demonstration: as immigrant detainees refused to eat, CoreCivic staff began immediately locking them in solitary confinement for their participation in the non-violent protest. According to ICE detainment logs obtained by The Verge through a Freedom of Information Act request, more than two dozen detainees were put in solitary confinement for hunger striking — some simply for declaring they would refuse to eat, even if they hadn’t yet skipped a meal. The logs also show that CoreCivic may have attempted to gather information on hunger strike organizers through cultivating detainee informants, who were later locked in solitary confinement themselves for protection. …


  • Dozens of immigrant detainees were locked in solitary confinement after going on hunger strike
  • Immigrants were simply demanding to have access to their deportation officers
  • ICE has previously been accused of using solitary confinement to punish hunger strikes
  • Private prison firms like CoreCivic are set to benefit from President Trump’s policies
  • CoreCivic renews contract with Bureau of Prisons

    Source: Jamie McGee, The Tennessean, November 15, 2016

    The Federal Bureau of Prisons will extend a two-year contract with a CoreCivic prison, the Nashville-based company, formerly named Corrections Corporation of America, announced Tuesday. The contract renewal follows an August announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice in which it said the Bureau of Prisons was instructed to phase out contracts with private prison operators. The renewed contract is for the McRae Correctional Facility in McRae, Ga., a 1,978-bed facility owned by CoreCivic. Monthly payments will be made for 1,633 beds, down from the previous contract that included 1,780 beds. … Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates instructed the Bureau of Prisons to end or reduce contracts with privately run prisons in a memo she described on Aug. 18. She cited a decline in prison population and, in an attached document, concerns about safety and security in privately run facilities. “As each private prison contract reaches the end of its term, the bureau should either decline to renew that contract or substantially reduce its scope in a manner consistent with law and the overall decline of the bureau’s inmate population,” Yates said in the Aug. 18 statement. “This is the first step in the process of reducing — and ultimately ending — our use of privately operated prisons.” …

    Georgia voters soundly defeat school takeover proposal

    Source: Mark Rice, Ledger-Enquirer, November 9, 2016

    The governor and more than two-thirds of the legislators supported the proposal, enabling it to be on the ballot, but Georgia’s voters soundly defeated Tuesday’s referendum that would have empowered the state to take over chronically failing schools or convert them to charters or even close them. With all 159 counties reporting, Amendment 1 failed 60 percent (2,400,312 votes) to 40 percent (1,599,649 votes) statewide, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s website. Locally, however, the majority of voters in Muscogee and Chattahoochee counties favored the proposal while the majority of voters in Harris County rejected it. … If voters approved Amendment 1, the state would have created an Opportunity School District, which Gov. Nathan Deal proposed based on similar initiatives in Louisiana and Tennessee. The proposal would have allowed Georgia’s governor to appoint an OSD superintendent, separate from the Georgia Department of Education superintendent, who is elected by voters. The OSD superintendent could have taken over as many as 20 eligible schools each year and could have controlled no more than 100 such schools at any time. The OSD superintendent could have waived Georgia Board of Education rules, reorganized or fired staff and changed school budgets and curriculum. The state also could have converted OSD schools to nonprofit or for-profit charter schools or closed them if they didn’t have full enrollment. …


    What’s at stake in Atlanta’s experiment in outsourcing public schools
    Source: Molly Bloom, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 27, 2016

    If everything goes as planned, the reopening of Thomasville Heights Elementary School this week will be the start of the most ambitious outsourcing of public education in Georgia. This winter, after calling out Thomasville as one of the worst schools in the state, Atlanta school Superintendent Meria Carstarphen hired Purpose Built Schools to run the school. Purpose Built is a nonprofit affiliated with Drew Charter School, a well-regarded east Atlanta charter school. … It’s also an attempt to avoid the state potentially taking over Thomasville. If voters approve Gov. Nathan Deal’s Opportunity School District plan this fall, the state could take over low-performing schools like Thomasville and close them, turn them over to charter school groups or run them itself. Carstarphen has said showing the state she’s making dramatic changes could help shield the school from takeover. Her plan is for Purpose Built to run a cluster of three schools in south Atlanta feeding into Carver High School, and eventually Carver itself. …

    APS test about to begin: Can new team transform struggling school?
    Source: Molly Bloom, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 25, 2016

    By 2018, as many as 2,000 Atlanta students could attend public schools managed by Purpose Built. Another nonprofit, Kindezi, will manage a fifth school. The schools aren’t technically charter schools — Carstarphen has pledged they’ll accept all students in their attendance zones — but they’ll have much of the same flexibility in how they operate. … Most of the Thomasville’s new staff are veteran teachers from Atlanta, nearby districts or charter schools, including Drew. They include some of Thomasville’s old staff who won their jobs back. … Thomasville’s new model will borrow extensively from Drew Charter School, which opened 16 years ago in a former Atlanta Public Schools elementary school. Today, the state rates Drew’s elementary school higher than nearly 80 percent of schools in Georgia. Like Drew, Thomasville will focus on teaching through class projects. Students will get extra help through reading and math tutoring. And after-school programs followed by dinner will keep kids at school until at least 6 p.m. …

    Boca-based prison operator gets contract renewal despite Justice Department’s goal to end private management

    Source: Marcia Heroux Pounds, Sun-Sentinel, September 30, 2016

    Despite the U.S. Justice Department’s announcement in August that it would end private contractor management of federal prisons, Boca Raton-based prison operator The Geo Group announced Friday it has received a two-year contract renewal for D. Ray James Correctional Facility in Georgia. D. Ray James in Folkston, Ga., was among the three prisons that had the most incidents per capita, according to the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General report, which was cited in the decision to reduce and eventually end private management of federal prisons. Geo said the Federal Bureau of Prisons has extended its contract for the prison, which houses up to 1,900 inmates, through Sept. 30, 2018. … On Friday, the Justice Department referred calls to the Bureau of Prisons. Bureau of Prisons spokesman Justin Long said Friday that the decision is “consistent with the memo from the Deputy Attorney General on phasing out our reliance on private prison facilities.” He said the Bureau of Prisons has renegotiated the contract for D. Ray James prison, reducing costs by $4.2 million. Geo was among three private contractors whose prison management was analyzed during fiscal years 2011-2014. The others were Corrections Corp. of America, and Management and Training Corp. The three contractors managed 12 percent of the nation’s prison population at a cost of $639 million in fiscal 2014. The report said disturbances at the prisons resulted in “extensive property damage, bodily injury, and the death of a correctional officer.” …


    Source: Brian Sonenstein, ShadowProof, September 30, 2016

    The federal Bureau of Prisons is extending its two year contract for the D. Ray James Correctional Facility, a Geo Group-operated private prison in Folkson, Georgia, according to a company press release.  The announcement is the second about-face this prison’s contract has seen since the Obama administration announced it would begin to draw down BOP contracts to operate private prisons in August. Under the terms of the renewed agreement, GEO Group will house up to 1,900 federal inmates while receiving a fixed payment from the government for 1,800 beds through September 30, 2018. GEO Group’s previous contract with BOP included a fixed payment for 1,962 beds. … Today, GEO Group’s Chairman and CEO George Zoley said, “We are very appreciative of the continued confidence placed in our company by the Federal Bureau of Prisons with this important contract renewal.” “We are pleased to have been able to accommodate the BOP’s need for fewer beds at the D. Ray James Correctional Facility with no disruption to the facility’s operations or the level of rehabilitation programming,” he added. The company says it “does not expect to revise its previously issued guidance as a result of this renewal.” According to that guidance, last updated on April 28, 2016, the company expects 2016 revenues to be between $2.18-2.20 billion. …

    Jonesboro considers privatizing trash pickup

    Source: Joe Adgie, Clayton News-Daily, September 2, 2016

    Recent price increases at the Clayton County landfill have prompted the city of Jonesboro to consider other options, including privatizing trash service in the city. The Jonesboro City Council held a meeting Wednesday evening to discuss how to handle garbage pickup in the city. The city called the meeting in response to changing prices at the Clayton County landfill in Lovejoy, which are causing an adverse impact on Jonesboro’s budget. … On May 26, the Clayton County Solid Waste Management Authority voted to raise the prices of the landfill to $100 per ton and a $100 minimum for all loads. After a backlash from county residents, the authority backtracked on those price increases July 6, adjusting the prices to $75 per ton, with a one ton minimum, and $40 for less than a ton of waste. The landfill will be open to Clayton County residents only. … Jonesboro solicited and received two bids for a new sanitation contract, one from Waste Management and one from Republic Services of Georgia. The Waste Management deal would provide service at a rate of $13.71 per month, and $164.52 per year. Garbage receptacles would cost $41 for new carts and $5 for used carts. Republic Services would provide a $14.87 monthly rate and a $178.44 yearly rate, as well as charging $41 for new carts and $30 for used carts. Currently, Jonesboro handles its sanitation pickup in-house, charging residents $180 per year for service that includes weekly curbside service as well as back-door pickup for a handful of residents, yard waste pickup and pickup of bulk items and white goods, or appliances. …

    New ambulance contract signed with Grady EMS

    Source: Billy Hobbs, Union-Recorder, July 22, 2016

    Officials with Oconee Regional Medical Center in Milledgeville have decided to do business with a new ambulance service. Hospital representatives recently made it official when they offered a contract to officials with Grady Emergency Medical Services of Atlanta. … Grady EMS will officially take over the ambulance service in Milledgeville and Baldwin County on Oct. 1, Johnson said. For the past nine years, ambulance service to local residents and others in the city and county had been provided through a contractual agreement with The Medical Center of Navicent Health Emergency Medical Services in Macon. … Recently, officials with Grady EMS made another presentation to local hospital officials, and announced that they already had spent more than $500,000 to purchase five new ambulances to serve the estimated 46,500 residents who live in Milledgeville and Baldwin County. …


    New EMS contract to be signed soon
    Source: Billy Hobbs, Union-Recorder, June 30, 2016

    Officials with Oconee Regional Medical Center in Milledgeville are expected to offer Grady Emergency Medical Services of Atlanta a contract next week to provide emergency ambulance service to the residents of Milledgeville and Baldwin County, The Union-Recorder has learned. Grady EMS will be taking over operations of the local ambulance service Oct. 1. … Grady EMS would replace The Medical Center of Navicent Health EMS, which has provided emergency ambulance service to Milledgeville and Baldwin County residents for a little more than nine years. … He also said Grady EMS officials have agreed to compensate current ambulance service personnel with the same pay they now receive, if they decide to apply for a job with them. Insurance and other benefits would be made available to new employees the first month following the date of employment with the new ambulance provider. …

    Amid Building Boom, Debate over Publicly Funded Stadiums Goes On

    Source: Elaine S. Povich, Pew Charitable Trust, July 11, 2016

    Missouri and St. Louis tried mightily to keep the NFL Rams from decamping for Los Angeles, offering $400 million in state and city money for a new stadium. To justify the public expense, officials argued that the team, which moved from Los Angeles to St. Louis two decades ago, was an economic engine for the region. They offered to put up the money even though the Rams’ billionaire owner, Stan Kroenke, could afford to build a new stadium on his own. … Two other NFL teams, the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders, also are eyeing a move to the nation’s second largest city. But Nevada is hoping to grab the Raiders for itself, by dangling a $1.4 billion stadium that would be paid for, at least in part, by the taxpayers. Meanwhile in Atlanta, construction is underway on a new $950 million stadium for the NFL Falcons, to be financed partly through bonds secured by extending a tax on hotel and motel rooms. Amid all the jockeying, a decadeslong debate rages on: Does it make economic sense for cities and states to use public money to build sports facilities? …

    … But many economists maintain that states and cities that help pay for new stadiums and arenas rarely get their money’s worth. Teams tout new jobs created by the arenas but construction jobs are temporary, and ushers and concession workers work far less than 40 hours a week.  Furthermore, when local and state governments agree to pony up money for stadiums, taxpayers are on the hook for years — sometimes even after the team leaves town. St. Louis, for example, is still paying $6 million a year on debt from building the Edward Jones Dome, the old home of the Rams that opened in 1995, despite the team’s move to California. The debt is financed by a hotel tax and taxes on “game day” revenues like concessions and parking. …


    New stadiums cost more than just money
    Source: Yousef Baig, The Weekly Calistogan, July 29, 2015

    …The first place to start is with the financing. A few years ago, a Harvard urban planning professor named Judith Grant Long put out a book called “Public/Private Partnerships for Major League Sports Facilities” that shed some light onto what these deals really cost taxpayers and the subsequent spillover effect into other areas. … The average public/private partnership has the cities forking over 78 percent of the costs, and the teams themselves just 22 percent. Additionally, she added, taxpayers spent about $10 billion more than originally estimated on the construction of all 121 stadiums that were in use during 2010. Ownership groups (made up of billionaires) tell city officials that they can’t afford the hundreds of millions of dollars required to erect these modern coliseums. They talk about the boon it will bring to the surrounding area, the increase in tourism, and the creation of jobs, while in the same breath, threatening to leave for another city if they don’t oblige. …

    Hamilton County, which took on stadiums for both the Cincinnati Bengals and Cincinnati Reds in the mid-1990s, has been crippled with debt ever since. In 2013 alone, annual stadium expenses totaled $43 million. Since these two stadiums were built, a public hospital was sold, mass transit investments were put off, and the tiny amount of private development along the Ohio River, which was a big selling point to get an increase in sales tax approved, has still required additional public subsidies. …
    To afford the $720 million required to build Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium, the city raised hotel, restaurant and rental car tax rates. Five months after it opened in 2008, a first-year deficit of $25 million was projected to jump to $45 million a year later. In June 2013, the city of Detroit, amid a financial crisis and filing for bankruptcy, stayed the course with its $444 million hockey arena for the Red Wings. A $450 million bond with a 30-year term fit the average arrangement mentioned in Long’s book, leaving taxpayers responsible for $283 million of it. …

    John Oliver: How Sports Teams Are Ripping Us Off
    Source: Marlow Stern, Daily Beast, July 12, 2015

    After a week off, John Oliver and his award-worthy HBO program Last Week Tonight are back, and this time, they’re targeting one of America’s favorite pastimes: pro sports….. “The vast majority of stadiums are made using public money,” said Oliver, citing a report from 2012 stating there’s been “$12 billion spent on the 51 new facilities opened between 2000 and 2010.” “Which begs the question: Why?” he asked…… But the theory that building a new stadium boosts a city’s economy is, according to an economic study cited by Oliver, a total myth. “A major review of almost 20 years of studies shows economists could find no substantial evidence that stadiums had increased jobs, incomes, or tax revenues,” he said….Recently, Hamilton County, Ohio, spent more than $50 million on stadium debt service and other costs in 2014 for the Cincinnati Bengals and Reds, even though the county has had to sell a public hospital, cut 1,700 jobs, and delay payments for schools because of budget gaps.

    Source: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, July 12, 2015

    Cities spend massive amounts of public money on privately-owned stadiums. Cities issue tax-exempt municipal bonds that — wait, don’t fall asleep!

    Public-Private Partnerships for Major League Sports Facilities
    Source: Judith Grant Long, Routledge, ISBN-13: 978-0415806930, 2012
    (purchase required)

    This volume takes readers inside the high-stakes game of public-private partnerships for major league sports facilities, explaining why some cities made better deals than others, assessing the best practices and common pitfalls in deal structuring and facility leases, as well as highlighting important differences across markets, leagues, facility types, public actors, subsidy delivery mechanisms, and urban development aspirations. It concludes with speculations about the next round of facility replacement amidst rapid changes in broadcast technology, shrinking domestic audiences, and the globalization of sport.

    Do Economists Reach a Conclusion on Subsidies for Sports Franchises, Stadiums, and Mega-Events?
    Source: Dennis Coates and Brad R. Humphreys, Econ Journal Watch, Vol 5 no. 3, September 2008

    From the abstract:
    This paper reviews the empirical literature assessing the effects of subsidies for professional sports franchises and facilities. The evidence reveals a great deal of consistency among economists doing research in this area. That evidence is that sports subsidies cannot be justified on the grounds of local economic development, income growth or job creation, those arguments most frequently used by subsidy advocates. The paper also relates survey evidence showing that economists in general oppose sports subsidies. In addition to reviewing the empirical literature, we describe the economic intuition that probably underlies the strong consensus among economists against sports subsidies.

    GHC outsourcing security, custodial services

    Source: Northwest Georgia News, May 11, 2016

    Georgia Highlands College will be outsourcing campus safety and custodial positions at all campuses, according to school officials. “We want to broaden our security and are privatizing and restructuring the custodial program to help with the costs of that expansion,” explained Sheila Jones, director of public relations and marketing. … The college’s human resources department is arranging employee meetings with Dynamic Security, the company that will be supplying security services. Employee meetings will also be set up with 3H Systems, the custodial services company. … The college currently has 29 full-time employees working in custodial and security departments at all of its campuses. Also, security and custodial staff will be encouraged to apply for any open GHC positions for which they may be qualified, and human resources will contact Kennesaw State, Dalton State and the Technical College System of Georgia to obtain information on any position opportunities they have.

    Privatized housing program paying off for University System of Georgia

    Source: Dave Williams, Atlanta Business Chronicle, May 10, 2016

    A student housing privatization initiative launched this school year by the University System of Georgia is paying early dividends. Four of seven campuses that participated in the program during the 2015-16 term saw increases in occupancy of student housing, with Columbus State University jumping from 90 percent occupancy to 99 percent, Jonathan Lucia, who manages the student housing portfolio for the university system told members of the Board of Regents Tuesday. … The university system signed a $517 million agreement with Corvais Campus Living in November 2014 to develop 3,753 new beds and manage 6,195 existing beds at nine institutions, a privatization initiative expected to save money and, thus, help maintain the affordability of student housing. Lucia said the program is projecting a 3.3 percent reduction in operating costs during its first year, savings made possible by using LED lighting technology, working with Georgia Power Co. to qualify for discounted educational utility rates and through Corvais’ ability to tap into its national purchasing power.


    Developer picked for Georgia higher-ed privatization deal
    Source: Jill Nolin, American School & University, November 14, 2014

    Corvias beat out Balfour Beatty Campus Solutions LLC and Education Realty Trust Inc. for the job.
    The University System of Georgia has selected Corvias Campus Living to develop and manage nine of the system’s campuses under a $517 million deal. A first phase will include 3,683 new beds and 6,195 existing beds, comprising more than 3 million square feet of space, according to a release sent on behalf of Corvias. The agreement is for the next 65 years. Corvias beat out Balfour Beatty Campus Solutions LLC and Education Realty Trust Inc. for the job, the Atlanta Business Chronicle reported. Corvias started its student housing division in 2012 in Cary, N.C. Georgia voters recently approved tax exemptions for private entities that run housing and parking operations for the university system….

    Bill would extend college tax exemption to private developers
    Source: Janel Davis, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, February 26, 2014
    (subscription required)

    The state House passed a bill Wednesday that could let developers get a property tax exemption when they take over operations of university system dorms….

    Universities seek housing privatization
    Source: Janel Davis, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, January 20, 2014
    (subscription required)

    The University System of Georgia wants to get out of the student housing business, and officials want a tax exemption to help them do it. The plan would involve the University System’s Board of Regents shifting a collection of campus dorms to a private company in a long-term lease deal. The system would retain ownership of the buildings and land, but the company would operate and maintain the facilities. To sweeten the deal, the University System is pushing for an extension to private companies of the property tax exemption that currently exists for the properties on the campuses of the state’s public institutions. Extending that exemption — which is part of the overall plan to privatize student housing — would require a statewide referendum. Legislation is expected to be filed on Tuesday to begin the process of getting the exemption issue on the November ballot….