The Houston County Board of Education sent a message to Warner Robins Tuesday in a unanimous fashion. The board voted down a tax allocation district the city wanted to create on Watson Boulevard from Commercial Circle to Ga. 247. Cities have used TADs to turn entire areas around. The city of Atlanta, transformed an old blighted steel plant that was a brownfield into a $250 million development with shops, apartments and other amenities using a TAD.
According to Atlantas Development Authority the city has 10 tax allocation districts and has issued $410 million in TAD bonds since 2001, that has leveraged $2.3 billion in private investment, created more than 2,400 construction jobs and 6,500 permanent positions. Using TADs, 8,000 housing units and 4.2 million square feet of commercial space has been funded. Could it work in Warner Robins? Certainly. A TAD is just another tool to lure private money to areas that in most cases would be passed by. Allotting future tax revenues to help finance the projects is really not much of a risk considering the amount of tax revenue presently generated by the properties is negligible.
The opposition by the school board, we presume, is not against the TAD idea. Rather it is the timing. In many communities, the school board is the last consideration, and as in this case, they were brought in on the day before they were expected to vote. It takes more time for the TAD concept to sink in. It was unreasonable to believe the school board would make such a decision quickly. The Warner Robins Redevelopment Agency will need to punt, do its homework and make sure school board members have the time needed to give the TAD its full consideration.