By David Pendered
The $15 million offered by Atlanta to fix up neighborhoods around the planned Falcons stadium is the subject of an emerging controversy.
The money had already been earmarked for the neighborhoods before the stadium deal was announced in March, according to an Invest Atlanta official. A planning firm had already been hired to recommend how the money be spent.
In that case, the sum shouldn’t be counted toward efforts to help mitigate stadium-related issues such as traffic and storm water runoff, according to neighborhood leaders who serve on the committee that’s guiding the stadium-related community benefits deal.
“This money had already been allocated for us and was renamed for us,” said Yvonne Jones, who chairs NPU-L and serves on the committee. “We should just go ask for another $15 million.”
“The $15 million in TAD [funds] should not have been mixed in with community benefits,” said Jerry Ladipo, a Vine City businessman who serves on the committee.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s representative on the committee said the administration will have a response. Deputy Chief of Staff Katrina Taylor Park did not elaborate, nor say when the response would be made available.
“The overlapping of the $15 million as relates to the TAD versus community benefits, we will have a one-pager that outlines that,” Parks said. “The mayor has asked for proposals and to follow the application process. There may be opportunities for funding outside the funding we’re discussing.”
The conversation occurred during the Wednesday meeting of the Community Benefits Plan Committee. The 16-member panel is to devise recommendations for spending $15 million in city funds, and recommendations that are to “inform” the spending of $15 million offered by the Blank Foundation, established by Falcons owner Arthur Blank.
The committee also agreed that it would not be bound by the Oct. 2 target date for finalizing its recommendations. A new date was not determined.
The $15 million in city funds is to come from a pot the city created in 1992 to pay for improvements in an area west of Atlanta’s central business district. The pot has a balance of more than $95 million, according to a 2012 city performance audit of Atlanta’s 10 TADs.
The Westside Tax Allocation District gets its money from property taxes collected on developments built after the TAD was created in 1992. Its original purpose was to redevelop the area around Centennial Olympic Park prior to the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.
In 1998, the boundaries of the Westside TAD were expanded to provide financial assistance to address blight in adjoining areas – specifically Vine City and English Avenue, according to Invest Atlanta.
The Westside TAD has become phenomenally successful, according to figures in the audit.
As of 2011, the fund balance of the Westside TAD was $95.12 million, according to the audit. That’s more than twice the amount remaining in the TAD that has the second highest balance – the Eastside TAD – which covers the east side of Atlanta’s central business district. The balance in the Eastside TAD is $46.54 million, according to the audit.
Another indicator of the latent wealth in the Westside TAD coffer is its balance in comparison to the fund balance in Atlanta’s eight other TADs. The total balance in those eight TADs is $83.8 million, according to the audit.
Spending any portion of the balance of the Westside TAD will require a vote by the Atlanta City Council, according to the audit.
That’s because the Westside TAD has already funded the public improvements that were identified in the redevelopment plan created under state law to establish the Westside TAD. In a segment of the audit that addressed the Westside and Eastside TADS, the audit states:
- “It’s not clear what additional bonds for the Eastside and Westside districts would be intended to fund, because the original bond issuances were intended to fund the public portions of all projects identified in the redevelopment plans. Issuing additional bonds will require City Council approval.”