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.