Tad Leithead, who chairs the CID, a 5.5-square-mile district where commercial property owners have agreed to tax themselves an extra 5 mills, said the county government will let the CID know what transportation improvements those are in the near future.
“What we’ve said is we’re putting $10 million into this,” Leithead said. “Tell us what the projects are going to be and make sure that those projects are consistent with our purpose under the law, which is going to wind up being transportation whether it’s sidewalks, the bridge, road improvements or whatever. The county is going to get back to us with specific projects and we’ll allocate our funds to those projects.”
Voting in favor were board members John Shern, Mason Zimmerman, Connie Engel, Barry Teague and Leithead.
A new tax district
At the request of county chairman Tim Lee, the board also voted in favor of a resolution endorsing the creation of a new tax district, which would roughly follow the CID’s existing boundaries.
Lee said the new tax district was needed because the CID can only tax up to 5 mills and can’t tax owners of apartment complexes. The new tax district, which will be voted on by the Board of Commissioners, would tax another 3 mills, which would bring an annual $5.1 million. That $5.1 million would be used to help pay the debt service on the revenue bonds that are being issued by the Cobb-Marietta Exhibit Hall Authority to finance the stadium over 30 years.
Leithead explained why it was worthwhile to increase taxes on the district.
“The district is putting in over the period of time I think it’s right at $150 million — $5 million for 30 years,” Leithead said. “The project is putting $1 billion dollars into our district and the economic impact of all that retail and the rental sales and potential increase in property values — David Connell has a report from an economist saying properties could as much as double in the Cumberland CID area — so we believe that the property value increase, the sales tax increase, the investment by the Braves, the investment by the county, is a true public-private partnership and that’s what we do.”
Where are the details?
Prior to voting on the resolution endorsing the new tax district, board member Barry Teague, a principal with apartment developer Walton Communities, said his concern was there was no document outlining the details of the new district.
“My concern is that we are approving a district that we really haven’t read the details, we have no document to approve nor do we know what the exact boundaries are, so that would be my only concern, is I would have liked to be able to read what the county commissioners are going to vote on,” said Teague, who was patched into the meeting by phone call.
Teague said one important detail that Lee pledged in creating the new district is the $5.1 million payment would stay the same even after property values increased with development.
“There are important details like Tim mentioned the amount of money is going to stay constant therefore the millage rate should be adjusted as the digest increases,” Teague said. “I’d like to make sure that’s in what they’re voting on before I say that I approve of it.”
Lee said his staff was still working on the details of the district and didn’t yet have a document to present.
“That document will come after the (memorandum of understanding) is done,” Lee said. “We are asking the Cumberland CID to support the creation of that specific mechanism of funding for the special district that mirrors the Cumberland CID but for some minor modifications as an indication of support towards that component of the funding document for this project,” Lee told CID board members during their meeting at the Cobb Chamber of Commerce’s office. “The reason I came to you is this is a win-win, public-private partnership, and we need everyone’s support to make it happen, and I believe having your support is critical for that success, and indicating it through this resolution is important not only through the community, but to the region that you believe in public- private partnerships and believe in this investment will no doubt be an extraordinary success.”
Leithead answers criticism
Atlanta columnist Maria Saporta criticized Leithead, who also chairs the Atlanta Regional Commission, in her Sunday column. Saporta described how Leithead spoke during the ARC’s State of the Region breakfast on Nov. 1.
“While Leithead was standing on stage as a regional leader, the other organization that he chairs — the Cumberland Community Improvement District — was working on a grand plan to lure the Atlanta Braves from the heart of the region to the auto-dependent Cobb County area near the intersection of I-75 and I-285,” Saporta writes, adding, “That’s Atlanta for you. One step forward. Two steps back.”
Addressing her allegations, Leithead said, “Well, let me say two things about that. One, it’s not true.”
Leithead said he only learned about the stadium proposal from Lee after the Nov. 1 breakfast.
“It was after the Atlanta Regional breakfast because I remember Tim telling me that and it was after that,” Leithead said.
As for the Braves move to Cobb, it is a regional move, Leithead said.
“What would have been a disaster for the region is if they went to Birmingham, Ala., or if they went to Columbia, S.C.,” he said. “The Atlanta Braves, the Atlanta Braves. Regionally, that’s good for the region and I happen to be the chairman of this district that was the beneficiary of their desire to move. I did nothing personally to procure that. But when the CID had an opportunity to participate we had to look at it on the merit of our obligation as a CID. I have absolutely no concern with any conflict with my role at the ARC. I see it as a regional project.”
Like Lee, Leithead called it a win for everyone.
“They’re still the Atlanta Braves. I mean, here in Atlanta 10 miles moves it jurisdictionally. You know the Dallas Cowboys play in Arlington, Texas. The New York Jets and the New York Giants play in New Jersey, OK? But they’re still the New York Jets and the New York Giants, right? I think that for the guy in Kansas or California or wherever, Atlanta Braves are moving within Atlanta. And if the Falcons and the Braves are playing on the same day we’re spreading the traffic across more of the region. I think it’s a win-win for everybody. I can see how you can see it as a loss for Atlanta and a win for Cobb, but I don’t look at it that way.”
The Exhibit Hall Authority plans to issue $368 million in 30-year revenue bonds. Annual debt service based on current market conditions is about $24 million. Of the $24 million annual payment, the Braves will pay $6.1 million and the county will pay $17.9 million, county finance director Jim Pehrson said.