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TAD Advisory Board launched
Panel to recommend projects in South Main district
TAD Advisory Board
Dan McRae, an attorney with experience working with tax allocation districts throughout Georgia, including some of Atlanta's largest, uses a sketchpad to explain details to Statesboro and Bulloch County's TAD Advisory Board. (AL HACKLE/staff)

The city-county advisory board for Stateboro’s South Main Street corridor Tax Allocation District met for the first time Friday and heard from Dan McRae, an attorney well versed in the use of TADs and similar funding instruments for redevelopment.

Statesboro City Council and the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners created the TAD Advisory Board last winter after the commissioners agreed to assign growth in county property tax revenue from the district to the redevelopment fund.  The city had established the TAD, originally allocated only the growth in city property taxes, on Dec. 31, 2015. Taxes on the value of property as appraised in the district before that date continue to go to the city’s regular budget, but added revenue from new construction or rising values goes to the TAD fund to back redevelopment projects in the district.

“A tax allocation district is a type of development district, and those are hot these days,” McRae told the advisory board. He  observed that they were also “hot before 2007” but not during the recession that followed, when property tax revenues declined.

“TADs depend on growth,” he said.

 

So far $194,000

Growth in the South Main TAD has been modest so far. After three years collecting just the growth increment from city taxes, the fund now contains $194,000, reported city Finance Director Cindy West. But the county government’s contribution will begin only with 2018’s taxes. Meanwhile, some ongoing private developments, particularly the West District commercial center and J.C. Lewis Ford’s new dealership location at Veterans Memorial Parkway, are certain to contribute increased taxable value to the TAD.

McRae, an Atlanta partner in the national law firm Seyfarth Shaw, has been involved in bond financing and special-district funding work for some of the largest public-private projects in metro Atlanta, including the Braves’ Sun Trust Park stadium complex. He also works with smaller communities across the state.

Of the 49 states that have this form of redevelopment funding mechanism, only Georgia calls it a Tax Allocation District. The other states all call it Tax Increment Financing, and so have TIF districts, McRae said.

He also talked about special service districts, which have special taxes assessed in a limited area, and community improvement districts.

 

City as lead agency

While a community improvement district has its own governing board, a TAD does not, he said. Instead, a Tax Allocation District is overseen by a redevelopment agency, which can be a city or county, but can also be a separate authority.

In this case, the city of Statesboro is the redevelopment agency, and City Council and the mayor will have the final say in funding any projects. But in their agreement to direct some county revenue to the TAD fund, the city and county set up the advisory board, with each naming three members. Under the agreement, the council cannot fund a project without an advisory board recommendation, but it could turn down a recommended project.

 

Board members

Attending Friday’s meeting at City Hall were advisory board members Wayne DeLoach, Bill Herring and Kendria Lee, representing the county, and members Doug Lambert and Scott Marchbanks, representing the city. The city’s other member, Lisa DeLoach, was not present at the start of the meeting.

But the city was also represented by City Manager Randy Wetmore, Public Works and Engineering Director Jason Boyles, Planning and Development Director Frank Neal, City Attorney Cain Smith and West.

“In my experience, TADs that have the local government as the redevelopment agency are not successful,” McRae said. “What you find in those jurisdictions is TADs being used very conservatively.”

“Say that again?” asked Allen Muldrew, the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority executive director.

“Again, this is  just my experience, and I’m winding up to say that I think Statesboro is one of the exceptions, where  you have the city as the redevelopment agency yet it still has potential,”  McRae said.

A local government that names itself as the redevelopment agency tends to “dribble out whatever money there is in a pay-as-you-go method,” he said.

So he was strongly hinting that Statesboro should take the opposite approach, using the TAD’s long-term revenue potential to leverage substantial projects with redevelopment bonds.

“The TAD concept is ‘Build it and they will come,’” he said at one point, and “Successful TADS issue redevelopment bonds” a minute later.

A TAD like the one around South Main can be used to fund private development costs, not just public infrastructure, he said. This requires a formal agreement with commitments to be met by the developer.

 

Two kinds of TAD

McRae was not involved in creating the South Main TAD. But he did work with private developers to draw up the proposal for the more recently adopted Old Register Road TAD, which will fund public infrastructure work to accommodate the planned Tormenta FC pro soccer stadium complex and surrounding commercial development, including a proposed supermarket and hotels.

With the city also hosting that TAD, both the Bulloch County Commissioners and Board of Education agreed to participate in increment funding for the Old Register Road area development. But the Board of Education has not agreed to participate in the South Main TAD, despite repeated requests from the city. The South Main TAD was launched with no specific plans or requests from private developers.

McRae said they represent two different types of TAD, with the Old Register Road TAD being a “project TAD,” and the Blue Mile or South Main TAD an “area TAD.” 

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