As mentioned this morning, it’s 55% Braves money, 45% Cobb County. The breakdown is like so, though:
- The Braves will pay $280 million up front, adding $92 million more in the future;
- Cobb County will pay $14 million up front in transportation improvements and $10 million more in general funds from a special business district.
- The county will finance the remaining $276 million by issuing revenue bonds.
Of course, payments need to be made on bonds. They’ll be paid like so:
- $400,000 a year from a new rental car tax;
- $940,000 a year from an existing hotel/motel tax;
- $2,740,000 a year from a new hotel/motel fee in that special business district;
- $5,150,000 a year from a property tax increase in the special business district;
- $8,670,000 a year from reallocating Cobb County property taxes.
The upshot? Politicians can and will say that they’ve only raised taxes in two small places — on out of towners in hotels and people in a special business district who probably knew this sort of thing could happen — and thus it’s a nice, impact-light, conservative-happy financing plan.
Except when you reallocate existing taxes to pay for a ballpark, you are taking them away from uses to which they are already being put. How much of the over $10 million a year moved toward the ballpark is being taken away from already-strapped schools, mental health services, parks, police, fire and other public uses?
And except that, if those rental car and bed taxes don’t provide the funds these estimates think they will, it will almost certainly be taxpayers footing the bill for the shortfall.
Also: if they have the will to raise new taxes in special improvement districts and on out-of-towners for this, why would doing it for any other purpose have led to accusations of creeping socialism and business and job-killing and the like? “Because we like sports,” is the answer, I suppose, “and we’ll now get nice seats at Braves games.”
All of which would be fine if the ballpark would bring economic benefits — benefits which go to the public who is paying for 45% of it — in equal or greater measure. But as we know from history, it is rarely if ever the case that sports facilities or events bring such benefits.
But hey, if that’s what Cobb County wants, at least it’s being done through the democratic process, right? It may be a bad decision to use public funds to pay for the Braves new park, but there’s nothing that says that taxpayers can’t decide to do dumb things. Right?
Because there are no new taxes here outside of the self-taxing CID, the County Commission can approve the proposal without a countywide referendum. Cobb County residents will cover nearly half of the Braves’ ballpark without getting to vote on it.
Oh. Well then.