The Bulloch County Board of Commissioners voted to table a resolution to allocate county ad valorem taxes to a special tax allocation district (TAD) in the City of Statesboro for the development of the Blue Mile on Tuesday morning.
The Commissioners were pressed with the idea of allocating funds, in a partnership with the City of Statesboro and the Bulloch County Board of Education, for development.
Mayor Jan Moore, who was not present at Tuesday’s meeting due to a family conflict, formally presented the idea, which has been in the works for months, to Commissioners at the meeting on July 18, asking the Board to consider allocating a percentage of the ad valorem taxes to the development of the Blue Mile and it’s surrounding area. The money would be used to improve areas of blight and for development incentive purposes, with a promise that it would never be used for city-owned buildings. No specific projects were named at the July meeting because projects will depend on what the developers need and what the city and county can do to accomodate the developer. Projects could mean road improvements or a parking deck, but would be on a case-by-case basis as developers approach the City.
In July, Moore said Statesboro passed the measure in November of 2014. Essentially, as properties increase in value, the taxes paid on the property by the owner owner increase. The City’s request would entail the county sending the increase over the current millage rate and collection of property taxes to the City for the TAD fund. Moore said the county millage rate is higher than the city’s so the county’s portion would technically be more. But the City is only asking the county to match what the city puts into the fund. In FY 2016, the City collected $21,082, in FY 2017, $73,310 was collected and $75,000 is anticipated in FY 2018.
In July, Moore also suggested creating a TAD advisory committee with 3 appointees from the city and 3 appointees from the county. Without a majority of members, no project could move forward. If the Board of Education was to join in, the committee would reflect their representation as well. If, after 10 years, no projects were completed, the city would return 100% of the funds to the county. Chairman Thompson told Moore that the July meeting was for listening and a decision would be made at a later date.
City Manager Randy Wetmore and Deputy City Manager Robert Cheshire were both present at Tuesday’s meeting and Chairman Roy Thompson read an email from Moore:
“Please extend my regrets to your fellow commissioners for not being able to be there this morning. A family celebration for our youngest daughter conflicted with this meeting. Please share that it is my sincere hope that we will be able to work with one another as a county and a city on the tax allocation district.
Redevelopment in this area is vital to the continued success of the city, and ultimately our county, as we move forward in facing the unique challenges that are upon us. Our citizens have asked for continued betterment in their quality of life for safety and jobs, to a more vibrant downtown, and additional shopping options.
We are working together to address each of these areas and I think that sets a wonderful example as we move forward. We have seen in years past that working together works. From Mill Creek Park and Gateway Industrial Park to our newest industrial park at I-16 and Highway 301S. Thank you again for your consideration. “
Resident Bill Herring was the only person to speak in favor of the project. He told Commissioners that he and Statesboro Downtown Development Authority Director Allen Muldrew met with a grocery store developer a few weeks ago and the biggest concern was the intersection at Fair Road and South Main Street.
“What does that have to do with the TAD? Fixing that intersection is going to take lots of money, probably $1 million. The way the TAD works is the TAD is able to show there is going to be a tax flow thats going to be generated under an additional and higher appriased value, like a grocery store or retail over vacant land. The TAD can use the projection of that income to borrow money and finance $1 million that’s needed to fix that intersection. It can sometimes seems complicated, but this is a specific illustration of how it can benefit our community and I’m advocating that we vote in favor of the allocating the money to the TAD district,” Herring told Commmissioners.
No one present spoke against the measure.
Commissioner Rushing said the TAD idea has led to be in favor at times, while at others, against the project, saying it is a very difficult decision to make. “I’m going to make a motion to table the idea until a later date. At this time, I don’t really know what it entails and we have an upcoming TSPLOST and a possible SPLOST extension and we may have some negative comments about generating additional taxes. We need to put more time into making this decision.”
County Attorney Jeff Akins told Commissioners they needed to pick a meeting date to reconsider or propose tabling the resolution indefinitely, meaning action would need to be taken to bring it before the Commissioners again.
Commissioner Rushing made a motion to table the issue and bring it back before the end of the calendar year.
Commissioner Jappy Stringer said being a new Commissioner, he too would like to learn more about it, and Commissioner Gibson commented that November or December would be a better time to reconsider it.
Commissioner Curt Deal, who is also in his first year of serving, said he is not against the TAD, but would like the SPLOST renewal and TSPLOST discussions to be resolved before deciding this. “I think there are some important things we can get done,” he said, “But let’s get the upcoming projects done and possibly roll back the millage rate first.”
Commissioner Simmons said his concern was that there is “no clear picture of what projects the city wants to do” with the money. “It’s kind of like, ‘Well, you do this and we’ll come up with something later. I just think we need to have a little more clarity on what the city wants to go forward with before I can honestly say let’s do this,” he said.
Commissioner Mosley said he is optimistic the county can work with the city, but it’s just a matter of how to solve all of the financial needs and a balance of taxes at this time.
Chairman Thompson concluded saying no one is against voting against TAD, but more information is necessary.
Going forward, County Manager Tom Couch plans to address specific concerns with each Commissioner. “I don’t think the issue is the construct of the agreement. There is undoubetedly the issue of the diversion of tax revenue, but I don’t know what else we could do at this time to change the character or the scope of the agreement at this time. It’s a complicated agreement, so we want to make sure you understand the terms and conditions.”
The idea is not too green to Bulloch County, however, because the County does have one special TAD of their own – where the Agriculture Arena is being built. The area funding was approved by taxpayers years ago, but is not a partnership with the city.
Members in the audience there to show support of the TAD left the meeting visibly upset.
When asked about the Commissioner’s decision to table the partnership on Tuesday, Mayor Jan Moore said, “I don’t think a comment would be productive at this time.”