To the editor:
The letter from Julian Bene in your May 29-June 11 issue (“Where have all the city taxes gone?”) illustrates fundamental misunderstandings of how tax allocation districts and development authorities work. Mr. Bene states: “So far ‘only’ $13 million per year of city tax money is going to the TADs. … As a higher proportion of future growth occurs in the TADs, the budget bleeding will become more severe.” He also states, “The Atlanta Development Authority (ADA) does not seem to report anywhere what its … concessions cost the city.”
I would like to set the record straight.
TADs are established to help spur development in economically stagnant areas. When the boundaries of a TAD are created, it is the “base year” for that TAD. During the life of the TAD, the property tax that was due to the city in that base year will continue to flow to the city each year. Only the increases in property taxes (above the base-year amount) will remain with the TAD, to be used for economic development and other public purposes within the TAD boundaries.
There is no “lost” property tax revenue for the city because the city continues to receive the same annual amount. In fact, as the TAD area advances economically, there is a near-term increase to the city in fees, sales taxes and other taxes as new residents move in and jobs and retail sales are generated in the TAD.
The vast majority of growth in any TAD comes from the economic development incentives provided by the TAD. In these underserved areas, there would be no growth without the incentives. There are many examples of the positive effects of TADs in Atlanta, but one of the easiest to see is the Atlantic Station TAD, which transformed an underused industrial wasteland into a national example of mixed-use redevelopment.
Strong and focused economic development is something that ADA works for every day, and it benefits every city resident. It’s not just about tax revenues — it’s about creating a better place to live, work and play, a city that can outperform its peers worldwide.
ADA carries out its mission in an open environment. Our board includes elected officials representing the city, Atlanta Public Schools and Fulton County. Our board meetings are open to the public. The economic impacts of our actions are openly discussed at these meetings before the board votes. If a project or action would produce a cost to the city and has no underlying economic benefit, there is zero chance of ADA advancing that project or action.
I encourage Mr. Bene to attend a board meeting and see for himself how ADA promotes the economic interests of the city.
Tom DiGiovanni, chief financial officer, Atlanta Development Authority