By John S. Sherman
The article “Authority’s Work Is Needed To Attract New Jobs” by Robert Shaw, Chairman of the Development Authority of Fulton County, which appeared in the April 22-May 5 issue of the Buckhead Reporter, asserts claims that stand utterly devoid of factual support.
Recently, the Development Authority issued over $1 billion in bonding on three high-rise projects each built over 20 years ago: 191 Peachtree Street, Marriott Marquis, and 30 Peachtree Center. In addition, the Fulton County Board of Assessors approved a 50 percent tax abatement, scaled down by 5 percent each year over a 10-year abatement period.
For Mr. Shaw to say that that the bonding and the tax abatements “create new jobs during this very difficult economic climate” is simply not true. These buildings, built over 20 years ago, already employed minimum-wage office cleaning personnel and minimum-wage chamber maids.
The Taxpayers Foundation strongly supports lawful, constitutionally recognized tax inducements to attract such major employers as UPS, a firm bringing thousands of new, good-paying jobs to Fulton County.
However, the Fulton County Development Authority has abused its authority by approving, during the past five years alone, over $5 billion in bonding for the most luxurious high-rise building in Atlanta: the St. Regis Hotel, Inter-Continental Hotel, Terminus Office Building, Sovereign Condominium, The Mansion Condominiums, etc. Once the bonding was approved by the authority, the Board of Assessors granted each of these projects a 50 percent tax abatement (scaled down 5 percent per year over a 10-year abatement period).
According to the Georgia development authority law, office developments are not subject to bonding except where the developer is the prime tenant of the building. Furthermore, the development authority law clearly states that a hotel facility is not an authorized project for bonding unless the hotel is connected to a convention, sports or trade show facility.
For the Board of Assessors to selectively grant specific developers a 50 percent tax abatement is grossly unfair to all other taxpayers in Fulton County, who must make up the difference.
This is so blatantly unfair that the Taxpayers Foundation instituted legal action against the Board of Assessors. On Nov. 1, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled in favor of the taxpayers, indicating again and again that all properties must be assessed at fair market value.
There are 329,000 taxpayers in Fulton County. Each of these taxpayers should be made aware of this shocking rip-off.
John S. Sherman
President, Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation