Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for November 15, 2013


Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for November 15, 2013

Braves Stadium Financing Update

Cobb County has released significant details on the financing for the proposed new Braves Stadium. From the Marietta Daily Journal:

In the end, the average Cobb County property owner emerged unscathed, at least in the short term of a 30-year deal that shows the county paying 45 percent of the total cost. The new taxes included in the deal are a 3 percent countywide car rental tax, a fee on top of the existing hotel-motel tax and a new tax on property owners within the Cumberland CID that would raise $5.1 million per year through a 3 mill increase.

Yesterday, the Braves website released an infographic that illustrates the financing structure:

Braves Cobb Infographic

Back to the MDJ for a little more information about several of those items.

3. New three percent Rental Car Tax: $400,000 (to be approved by County)

4. New Cumberland Special Service District Tax: $5.2 million (Consists of approximately three mills property tax increase in approximately the footprint of the Cumberland CID. This equals about $120 annually on $100,000 market value property.)

5. New Cumberland Special Service District Hotel Circulator Fee: $2.74 million ($3 per room per night charge for hotels and motels in district footprint)

I see three issues with the proposed structure. First is the timetable for approval of a Memorandum of Understanding. With the release yesterday of the broad strokes of the deal leaving twelve days for public input and the decisionmakers to consider the deal, that amounts to $25 million in public funds per day the deal is under consideration. The time between the announcement of details and a vote by the Commission seems too short for meaningful discussion and public input.

Second, the assumption that $8.67 million per year in property taxes can be committed without placing upward pressure on property taxes seems optimistic at best. Chairman Lee seems to assume that property values around the stadium will increase.

“I believe the economic benefit that we realize through increased property values and increased sales tax will more than offset the investment being made by the county at this point.”

If that is true that property values are increased near the stadium, homeowners would see the amount of property taxes they pay increase, even if the millage rate doesn’t increase. In my experience, homeowners are more sensitive to the bottom line dollar figure they pay in property taxes more than to the millage rate.

Finally, I’m not sure how a deal can be structured to ensure the long-term commitment of future County Commissioners to dedicate the $8.76 million in property taxes to stadium financing without issuing bonds.

Jim Galloway wrote yesterday that Cobb County Commissioner Bob Ott, in whose district the proposed stadium would be built, is hearing from constituents concerned about traffic, the effect on local schools, and the financing of the stadium.

VININGS, GA — Express Cleaners is a family owned business that operates across from Cumberland Mall, and in the heart of the Cumberland Community Improvement District. Its owners expect fresh business from baseball fans. But they’re also bracing for a big hike in property taxes they’ll pay to the Cumberland CID. “Not a good thing to raise taxes,” said Madhu Jasani, who owns the business with her husband.

Taxes are higher here because 175 commercial property owners within the five and a half square mile district have volunteered to a tax levy that pays for improvements within the district. The CID property tax now collects more than five million dollars a year. To help pay for the stadium, the tax levy will bump up from five to eight mills — a hike of sixty percent.

Lance Lamberton, an anti-tax activist, says the limited scope of the tax hike is beside the point. “I don’t think taxpayers or taxes should be raised in any way shape or form to support what basically is an entertainment venue for profit,” Lamberton said.

Kelly Marlow not suspended from Cherokee School Board

The three-member board convened to decide whether to recommend Gov. Nathan Deal suspend Cherokee County Board of Education member Kelly Marlow did not recommend suspension.

“The review commission determined that the indictment does not relate to or adversely affect Marlow’s ability to perform her official duties,” the governor’s press office said in a news release. “The commission’s ruling is final.”

The panel was made up of Attorney General Sam Olens, Cobb County School Board Member Tim Stultz and Forsyth County School Board Member Ann Crow.

The anti-Marlow group SCRAM! reacted to the news:

We are weighing our options and a recall is still possible. However, one thing is certain: SCRAM! is here to stay. We are a committed group comprised of parents, students, teachers and local residents that is dedicated to monitoring and bringing light to Kelly Marlow’s decisions and actions as a School Board Member.

While Ms. Marlow may remain in office at this time, we are confident that she will never be elected to public office after her term expires. Our 1,800 SCRAM! members will make sure of that. We will continue to closely monitor her pending criminal case with hopes that any repercussions will include her termination from the Board of Education.

Balfour’s lawyer addresses suspension

Via ATLawblog, the statement by Ken Hodges, who represents Don Balfour, who was suspended from his seat in the state Senate:

“We respect the members of the panel; however we disagree with the recommendation. The Constitution is clear that the Governor has to follow the recommendation so his action is no surprise.

Senator Balfour’s suspension will be in effect through the end of this calendar year but will end before the General Assembly reconvenes in 2014.  He will take his seat then and the citizens of the 9th Senatorial District will once again have the representation they deserve and that they overwhelmingly voted for even when the allegations were public and pending.

It is important to note that the lead investigator who headed the investigation for the GBI confirmed that no witness indicated that Senator Balfour turned in the expense requests in error intentionally and, in fact, several witnesses told him that Senator Balfour would not have submitted a false expense report.  The agent also could not point to any evidence that the indictment adversely affects the administration of the office or that the rights and interests of the public are being adversely affected; two failsafes the Constitution required that the State to present evidence on and prove.

Indeed a Senate Ethics Committee, which Senator Ronnie Chance was a part of, already found that the submissions were ‘inadvertent’ and thus not intentional.

Senator Balfour looks forward to a full hearing on the merits of the case in a Court of law where his Constitutionally guaranteed due process rights will be in place.  Unfortunately today, politics ruled, not the law, and not even simple fairness.”

Paul Broun’s first direct mail in Senate race



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