Cobb School Board discusses tax breaks on Riverwalk project
by Nikki Wiley
December 12, 2013 01:25 AM | 2087 views | 3 3 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — Cobb Board of Education members said Wednesday they should have been clued in earlier to talks about tax breaks for a powerful developer’s $103 million project and hope legislation will be passed in the future requiring officials to tell the school system early when tax revenue is at stake.

The board didn’t take official action at a Wednesday meeting against a property tax break for a project backed by real estate magnate John Williams, but made their disapproval of the process known.

Board member Tim Stultz said he wants to see legislation put in place to require more prompt conversations between the school system and Development Authority of Cobb County when the authority negotiates with property tax money that funds county schools.

Riverwalk, a mega-development to include 236 for-lease

condos, 14 three-story townhomes and a 10-story office tower, is set to receive a 10-year property tax abatement from the Development Authority.

The development is planned for an area near the site of the new Atlanta Braves stadium in Cumberland.

The project didn’t meet the county’s requirements of creating 25 jobs and contributing $500,000 to the tax digest, but the Development Authority, which is chaired by Vinings Bank executive Clark Hungerford, husband of Cheryl Hungerford, a deputy superintendent for the school district, is moving ahead anyway with waiving property taxes.

The Development Authority has the power to act on its own when offering tax abatements.

School board wants a say

The school board doesn’t have any power over the Development Authority’s actions, but board Chairman Randy Scamihorn said earlier in the week that he might look for a resolution expressing approval or opposition from his colleagues on the board.

Though that didn’t happen Wednesday, board members still voiced unanimous concern about the way they learned about the project’s tax abatement. Superintendent Michael Hinojosa previously said he was not aware of the potential for tax waivers until he read about it in the MDJ.

The two parcels that make up the 7 acres of undeveloped land are currently valued at about $6.1 million for tax purposes, according to the Cobb County Tax Commissioner’s website. That raw land generated $46,433 for the Cobb School District in 2013 and $26,803 for the county.

If developed into a $100 million project, as proposed by financial backer John Williams, the site would pump more than 15 times that amount into county coffers, with $436,400 generated for the county and another $756,000 for Cobb schools, according to estimates provided by the county finance office.

But Riverwalk won’t be paying those taxes to the schools and county government if the proposed tax abatement goes through as planned.

Board member Kathleen Angelucci also expressed desire for legislation or, at the least, “common courtesy” that would give the school system more time to determine how proposed tax breaks would impact funding.

Board members David Morgan and Scott Sweeney also voiced concern.

David Banks, board member, said it’s too early to know what the effect will be, but indicated the wait for the cash to roll in could be worth it.

“I think in my situation I’m willing to give up a few dollars now in order to make a bigger investment later on,” Banks said.

The final step before the tax waiver is approved is a bond validation before Cobb Superior Court Senior Judge Michael Stoddard at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, which will give critics an opportunity to voice concerns.

Comments
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Cobb Resident
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December 12, 2013
They are complaining about $750K in lost tax revenue!?! The Board is $80 million in the hole and they are railing over what adds up to under 1% of the shortfall? Way to keep things in perspective.

And to whine about not being included by the County commission is laughable. They can barely manage the school district let alone get involved in other county issues.
Be Careful
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December 12, 2013
The school board is acting like they already have the $756,000 and are going to have to figure out how to live without it.

This is NOT the case. Currently they are getting $46,000 from the land, THAT they will have to live without.

The $756,000 they are not getting now, so how is that going to effect the budget? Are they already fantasy spending that money in their heads?

The NUMBER ONE problem with the school board si crippling financial mismanagement.

Until they fix that, no amount of extra money will help the situation.

Look at the SPLOST.

SPLOST is supposed to be EXTRA money that comes in once in a while. But the school board now has SPLOST written into it's normal budget funding.

That is NOT supposed to be how it works.

Do not give these people another red cent until they clean up their financial act and learn how to handle money in a responsible manner.
MOO MONEY
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December 12, 2013
The Weather Channel actually will create real jobs but the Braves and John Williams is just greedy Cobb Chamber Republicans giving out corporate welfare at the tax payer’s expense thanks for voting Tim Lee back in. The school board is another bunch that just waste money as well have they ever had enough money and how little trickles down to teachers and the students. The teachers union needs to get the laws changed Tim Lee shouldn’t be able to wipe out school taxes with freebies to billionaires; the Cobb County school board needs to file suit on this this is unconstitutional for the county to disallow school taxes without the school board’s approval.
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