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Cobb School District Will Protest Riverwalk Bond Deal

The proposed tax breaks for a $100 million development in the Cumberland area will go before a Cobb Superior Court judge Tuesday morning.

The Cobb County School District has filed a formal protest against a bond deal that would include tax breaks for the $100 million Riverwalk Development in the Cumberland Area. Credit: The Corcoran Ota Group, Inc.
The Cobb County School District has filed a formal protest against a bond deal that would include tax breaks for the $100 million Riverwalk Development in the Cumberland Area. Credit: The Corcoran Ota Group, Inc.
A proposed tax abatement for a $100 million dollar development in the Cumberland Community Improvement District has drawn ire from elected officials and the Cobb County Board of Education, which has formally filed a protest against the deal.

Board of Education Chairman Randy Scamihorn will bring a delegation of Cobb education officials to the bond validation hearing for the Riverwalk project in Cobb Superior Court at 9:00 a.m. Tuesday.

If Judge Michael Stoddard validates the deal, the Development Authority of Cobb County would purchase the seven acre site at the intersection of Cumberland Boulevard and Cobb Galleria Parkway and then lease it back to Greenstone Properties, the developers behind the Riverwalk complex.

Since the Development Authority of Cobb County is a governmental body, no taxes would be paid on the property until 2015, when construction would be significantly complete on 14 three-story townhomes, 236 condominiums, and 200,000 sq. ft. of Class A office space.

After 2015, Greenstone Properties would shoulder the burden of the site's property taxes, but under the terms of the ten-year abatement would only pay 10 percent of the total in 2015, 20 percent in 2016, and so on. The county, including the school district, would not see the complete income from the site's property taxes until 2025.

The area currently generates around $46,000 for the school district each year in property taxes, but that value could skyrocket to over $750,000 when Riverwalk is complete. School district officials are concerned that the tax breaks will cost the school district hundreds of thousands of dollars of unrealized income when the district is facing millions in budget shortfalls.

Last week, Cobb Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa said the school district would not get in the way of the deal, but CCSD lawyers filed a formal protest against the bonds late Monday afternoon, according to the Marietta Daily Journal.

Legislators are also raising their eyebrows at the tax deal. Another MDJ article says that State Sen. Lindsey Tippins, a former chair of the Cobb Board of Education, has asked Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee for a legal opinion on whether or not the Development Authority, a governmental body that does not answer to voters, taxpayers, or the Cobb Board of Education, can issue tax breaks that will financially damage the school district without the school district's consent.

State Reps. Hunter Hill and David Wilkerson are also asking for a legal opinion and for more accountability for the Development Authority and its unregulated powers to hand out tax breaks. The pair believe the only body that should be vested with the power to issue such incentives is the Cobb Board of Commissioners.

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