DeKalb County, GA, May 20, 2016 – Commentary, by Allyson Gevertz – I’m not an economic development expert, nor an attorney, nor an accountant; I’m a parent of DeKalb County School District students. I’ve watched the Doraville Tax Allocation District (TAD) impasse unfold in the shadow of the Atlanta Public Schools/Beltline TAD trauma, and I’ve wondered why the Doraville TAD proponents appear unwilling to genuinely address the school District’s concerns.
I would like to ask Doraville TAD supporters to consider five ways they could demonstrate respect for the District’s position and come closer to a deal:
1) Acknowledge that Superintendent Green and the chairman of the school board have held numerous meetings with pro-TAD leaders. Acknowledge that District Board of Education members received thick packets of TAD documents that they reviewed last fall, prior to giving Dr. Green input on the TAD and prior to Dr. Green issuing his statement of concern in December … and his recommendation against the TAD in January. Saying that the District refuses to consider a TAD proposal doesn’t foster a sense of collaboration and respect.
2) Address the financial risk. Superintendent Green’s message is not anti-development, but based on his fiduciary responsibility to the students of DeKalb. If he is concerned about the risk, then minimize the risk. Establish a nonprofit that allows the developer and business community to set aside funds for a school safety net. If the TAD ends up benefiting the District, those funds can be used to support the TAD in another way. In the meantime, it alleviates risk for the District.
3) Give the District a majority position on the governing board. If the District is investing majority funding, then the District should have a majority of seats overseeing the project. Doing this would, again, alleviate a sense of risk. Dr. Green has called the TAD a “gamble,” so giving the District more control over its investment can only inspire confidence.
4) Bring other investors to the table. Demonstrate to the District that other entities are willing to commit. Bring MARTA representatives to meetings. Ask the EPA to assist with clean-up issues. Get a commitment from the state to help fund a project said to bring $2.5 billion to the region in 10 years. With increased buy-in at the local, state, and national levels comes a greater sense of security in the decision to participate.
5) Find other ways to demonstrate support for the District. Publicly ask state legislators to restore full funding to our schools. Press Governor Deal to restructure QBE [Quality Based Education] in a way that is fair to DeKalb. Openly support a yes vote on Education-SPLOST so that capital projects can continue to be funded by sales tax revenue rather than property taxes. Fear of funding loss leads to increased risk aversion.
I believe that the Doraville TAD can be a win-win for all parties involved, but this is only possible when each side approaches the negotiating table with respect for the other’s position. Until the Doraville proponents are able to move past intimidation and embrace a respectful, collaborative spirit, I fear the development will remain stalled.
–– Allyson Gevertz
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