For the past few years, I’ve written about the failings of the City of Atlanta. There are many. But I would be remiss to point out that Fulton County is so balkanized because the county (despite its hefty portion of my property tax bill) actually provides few services. Fulton County also needs a healthy dose of disinfectant, but if I were to start somewhere, I’d begin with the Development Authority of Fulton County (DAFC).
I’ve written previously about DAFC and how their poor use of tax abatements in NPU K starves education in Atlanta and doesn’t actually incentivize bringing business and jobs to the area. In the case in NPU K, which will appear again on the agenda, ground clearing and building have already begun, so to offer a tax abatement at this juncture is pointless.
On the agenda today is another property which, like the property I mentioned prior, this property is in a hot area of development and needs no further incentive. I wrote a letter about it as well.
Now why might DAFC just give away tax abatements like this?
Well, it’s part of how they fund themselves. DAFC is funded by a portion of the projects they incentivize. So not only do they give tax money away to developers, they are also sponsored by them. I find this somewhat amusing because legislators have to report even small gifts from lobbyists, but here in Fulton County, skimming off the top is actually a legal way of doing business!
As state legislators consider pre-filing, reorganizing DAFC to be sustainably funded without this formalized mechanism of bribery might be a positive place to start. Not to put too fine a point on it, but doing this and you’re making significant systematic change. Doing this affects economic growth, and education funding, and shifts the tax burden from individual property owners to commercial property owners, where Arthur Ferdinand’s office recently decided they should be more appropriately taxed.
I may have lot of issues with urban planning in the City of Atlanta, but I cannot absolve Fulton’s poor management of incentives for economic development. I cannot expect Atlanta to do better unless Fulton also gets the necessary reform to make development and its insidious incentives more transparent with regular funding instead of skimming off the top of deals from developers.