Reader against tax dollars for Braves
November 20, 2013 12:00 AM | 1331 views | 2 2 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print

As a Cobb County resident, I’m frustrated at the announcement that my property tax dollars might be used to subsidize a private company (i.e., Atlanta Braves’ owners, Liberty Media) owned by billionaires (e.g., controlling shareholder, John Malone).

As you know, Cobb has dramatically and painfully reduced services to its own citizens in response to the recession. Fire departments have faced cuts. Police departments have faced cuts. Libraries, senior centers, bus services, courts, and on and on.

My understanding is that Cobb officials plan on diverting approximately $8 million in existing property taxes each year (plus approximately $1 million in existing hotel taxes each year) to pay the debt incurred to build this stadium with no plan to raise taxes? That, of course, means that it will have to cut an additional $9 million in services to Cobb citizens.

Of course, it will take 30 years to pay back the debt incurred to build the stadium. Given recent history, the likelihood of the Braves remaining in the stadium for that long is almost nil. Adding insult to injury, every article that I could find about the financial benefit of stadiums to the surrounding communities say that the communities never recover their investment.

If fire and police departments have to form foundations to find extra money, then in my opinion, we have no business subsidizing a private concern with our tax dollars. Other stadiums have been built entirely with private dollars (e.g., San Francisco’s baseball stadium and New York’s football stadium), and there’s no reason that Liberty Media can’t do the same.

What has been proposed is a great deal for the Liberty Media and its investors and an awful deal for Cobb and supporting it would be the opposite of fiscal conservatism. I hope (the Cobb Commission) will vote against it.

Chris O’Connor

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@ Chris O.
November 20, 2013
You have a few flaws in your discussion.

0.33 mills of current property tax is for park bond debt. Those funds cannot be used for "services." They are restricted to "acquiring park land within the County to be owned by the County." The 0.33 mills is proposed to be continued thereby providing the approx. $8.0 million.

No cuts to services will be realized with the continuation of the park bond debt.

The current hotel/motel tax revenue is used to retire the debt for the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority, plus promote tourism.

It is not, nor can it be used for "services."

Additionally, the Cumberland Special Service District Hotel Circulator Fee is proposed to be $3 per room per night charge for hotels and motels in the district footprint and to generate an estimated $2.74 million in revenue. Again, these funds cannot be used for "services."

It seems that the Braves had a pretty acrimonious relationship with Atlanta. Otherwise, Cobb wouldn't be having this discussion.

What if, Cobb were to embrace the Braves in the same way that Boston fans have embraced the Red Sox and Fenway?

Same for Wrigley and the Cubbies!

Ditto for the house that Ruth built, even as replaced.

Each are on baseball fans bucket lists for good reason. Cobb could do worse, yet has a golden opportunity to create a legacy.

Chris O'Connor
November 20, 2013
Thank you for this reply. I’ve been following this issue closely, but when I composed this letter, I wasn’t aware of the park bond debt and how the timing of its expiration would allow the county to reallocate funds used to payoff that debt towards new stadium financing. While this information mitigates my frustration, it doesn’t eliminate it.

With the forthcoming expiration of the park bond debt, the county has at least four choices: take advantage of the savings from the debt to raise the millage rate applied to the county's general fund to restore or improve basic county services that were impacted by recent cuts, reduce taxes by not replacing the debt with any new spending or financing, some combination of the two, or replace the park bond debt with new debt to help finance the baseball stadium. From my perspective, taking on new debt to help finance the baseball stadium is the most irresponsible of these choices.

Again, Liberty Media and it’s shareholders have more than enough money to finance their new stadium without any help from Cobb County taxpayers. In addition, I have yet to find one local municipality that was able to fully recover taxpayer dollars invested in professional sports stadiums, despite promises made to the contrary by elected officials. Not one.

For more information, consider searching the conservative Heartland Institute’s website to see what they learned about subsidizing sports stadiums. The report on their site provides links to several additional outside sources for your perusal. Spoiler alert: You won’t like what you find.

You mentioned Fenway Park and Wrigley Field. Ironically, it turns out that both are additional examples of stadiums built entirely with private funds. So, yes. I agree. Let’s embrace the Braves the same way that Boston and Chicago have embraced the Red Sox and Cubs—-with open arms and without taxpayer dollars.

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