Bulloch County Commissioners agreed Tuesday to allocate taxes from revenue growth to the city of Statesboro’s South Main Street Tax Allocation District, or TAD.
A tax-allocation district “is a defined area where real estate property tax monies gathered above a certain threshold for a certain period of time … are to be used for a specified improvement,” according to google.com.
This means revenue from any future property improvements, beyond the current property value, within the district will go towards infrastructure improvements within that area by the city, said Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch.
The South Main Street TAD covers areas along Highway 301 South from Georgia Southern University to the Bulloch County Courthouse and to the east of the central South Main corridor along Brannen Street, encompassing both the old Sallie Zetterower Elementary School campus and the Gentilly Square shopping center area.
Other included areas are on either side of South Main Street, including Simmons Shopping Center and nearby residential areas.
This is not a tax increase, and should there be no new real estate developments, such as a new business locating within the district, the city of Statesboro would return the money to the county.
“This is sort of a deferred benefit to the county,” Couch said.
After the TAD expires, all revenues from properties involved would revert to the county, including developments that took place within the district that benefitted from city-funded infrastructure.
The agreement would span 10 years, beginning in January. However, the TAD agreement could be expanded, if “a private development project is financed for supporting infrastructure – to which no financed project can extend beyond 2039. If the city or a developer does not finance a project within the first 10 years, the city will have to return any unused funds and the TAD will end,” Couch said.
If TAD financing does occur, the Statesboro City Council can approve it only upon the majority recommendation by the proposed TAD Advisory Committee, which must be appointed within 60 days of the agreements between the city and county, he said. The board will have equal representation of appointments by the city and county. The board will have 90 days to approve “rigorous policies and procedures to vet projects that qualify for financing or use of TAD funds.”
According to the agreement upon which commissioners voted, city officials must make a “good faith effort” to develop a 10-year implementation plan by July 2018, “that is more detailed than their redevelopment plan of 2014,” Couch said.
The city has approached Bulloch County commissioners in the past regarding the TAD, but no agreement was ever made. Couch said although he was unable to reach agreements with city officials in the past, he and Statesboro City Manager Randy Wetmore have been able to work together towards a satisfactory agreement.
However, Wetmore said Wednesday he was not alone in efforts to work with county leaders, and credited Statesboro Mayor Jan Moore with much of the hard work.
"She was definitely very involved in coming up with the language that we were able to agree on in the agreement between us and the county for the TAD," Wetmore said. "The mayor was very, very involved in that."
Moore was active in the process before he arrived, he said. Wetmore started as Statesboro's city manager Sept. 1, 2016 after being hired by City Council two months earlier. But he did play a role in recent communications with the county government, he acknowledged.
"I did that part and helped with the language and stuff, but the mayor was really involved in that, and of course she was involved in that longer than I was as well," Wetmore said.
The agreement approved Tuesday outlines other details, including that the city must make annual program and financial reports and will have to hold a public meeting every five years to verify plans are being met, and if there are any excess funds that need to be returned to the county.
If the city expands the TAD boundaries, it requires County Commission approval.
The agreement is contingent upon what is decided between the Bulloch County Board of Education and the city of Statesboro, Couch said.
“If the Board of Education participates by providing its tax increment, and they have stipulations and conditions more stringent than in this agreement, the county shall benefit from them,” he said.
Couch said he is pleased with the agreement.
“Provided that there is no future breach, I think that the city and county staff have developed an agreement that is mutually beneficial,” he said. “Further, I trust Mr. Wetmore will be a good administrative advisor and steward of TAD funds.”
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.