From Julian Bene—retired management consultant & former board of Invest Atlanta member.
You may have seen that Fulton Development Authority (DAFC) handed Musk a $10M property tax abatement last week, for zero public benefit. By now, that's what you'd expect from DAFC.*
Neither the current Fulton County Commissioners nor our current state legislators will do anything about this.
But all is not lost! These tax breaks only work if our Board of Assessors (BOA) agrees to a fraudulent valuation of the projects in question. Since we challenged that valuation method in early December, the BOA has held the Tilford Data Center and other breaks that have come their way, while they figure out if our challenge is right. It's right! Both a look at the phony bond and lease structures underlying the abatements and the market evidence prove it. 19 recent sales of major abated properties went for an average of 3x their abated value. Not one sold for less than full appraised value before abatement.
The BOA may not approve arbitrary and unreasonable valuation of a favored few properties. The players who benefit handsomely from the abatement scam have allies at the BOA and are likely exerting maximum pressure. Some board members and county staff are trying to hide behind a misreading of a court decision on valuation methods; our attorney allies are setting that record straight.
The BOA plans to hold a work session on this next week on Feb 8. (Whether before or after their regular 12.30. p.m. meeting is unclear as of now.) Zoom link here: https://fultonassessor.org/current-meetings/
If the majority of BOA's 5 members decide to resume mis-valuing development authority projects, we'll have to take legal action. No public action needed for now. But stay tuned!
* We managed to reform DAFC, by revealing petty corruption of the leaders, for only a couple of years, from mid-2021 to mid-2023. Our County Commissioners - except for Lee Morris - never wanted DAFC reformed. Dana Barrett beat Lee in the 2021 Commission election and, as soon as she could, replaced reformer Tom Tidwell on DAFC with a telecoms developer's attorney, decisively tipping the balance. In the six months since then, DAFC has squandered $100M of our tax revenue on projects that would have happened without abatements. Those projects also bring almost no jobs or affordable housing units.