FactChecker Reviews Chairman Johnson on the TAD

WABE 90.1 took a Closer Look with Dr. Melvin Johnson (interview transcribed), chair of the DeKalb Board of Education, to discuss the Doraville TAD. The FactChecker staff is very concerned about Dr. Johnson’s understanding of the Doraville TAD and how TADs work among other numerous other inaccurate statements he made in that 15 minute interview.
Related Posts And Docs
  TAD Talk By Commissioner Nancy Jester – (May 2016)
  Transcribed Interview of Dr. Johnson on WABE – (May 2016)
  TAD – Q&A – Open Discussion – (Apr 2016)
  Doraville Tax Allocation District(Dec 2015)
  DeKalb Schools – Not a Fan of the TAD(Dec 2015)
.pdf link icon   Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with Doraville and DeKalb County
.pdf link icon  Doraville TAD Bleakly Report (outlines the rationale, boundaries, fiscal data and potential projects for the TAD)
Fact Checker

Rose Scott“Do you feel like the board has really vetted the opportunities, talked to all the major players involved here?”
Dr. Melvin Johnson“We met with Mr. Perry, the developer. We met with the Mayor and her staff of Doraville and many others discussing options and opportunities in this regard.”
The Superintendent and Dr. Johnson have had many conversations with representatives from the Assembly project.
The board, however, has never met with the developer or representatives from the City of Doraville despite many requests from the city to meet including this April 6 email and this May 4 email. There is also an ongoing petition asking the DeKalb County School Board to Hear the TAD Proposal.
Furthermore, the school district has asked the developer to not reach out to school board members individually.
Rose Scott“Are you saying that DeKalb Schools would essentially be forfeiting money that should come into the district over that time?”
Dr. Melvin Johnson“Yes. We would be deferring money in that regard over a million dollars per month in that regard.”
Rose Scott“A million dollars per month?”
Dr. Melvin Johnson“Yes. Per month that would be deferred. However, we get into how long that goes on and over a period of money we would be giving up roughly $235 million over time. It’s our estimate that we would probably break even in 2050.”
Rose Scott“Is that when you would get the money back?”
Dr. Melvin Johnson“That’s when we would start collecting the taxes from the development itself.”
This is the part that strains credulity. The school board chair is completely unaware of how the TAD works.
1) $936,000 is collected annually from the GM Site. It’s annually, not monthly.
2) With a TAD, the school district CONTINUES TO KEEP COLLECTING THAT MONEY (We can’t emphasize that enough).  As improvements are made and development occurs on the property, its value will increase.  The tax that is paid on that increase in the value, gets paid into the TAD account.
3)  The TAD is set for 25 years.  The school district would continue to collect the roughly $1 million in taxes every year.  The increase in taxes collected from the increased property value over that $1 million will start going to the school district in 25 years (2042), not 2050 as the chair suggested.
The school district will break even from this investment in 2050.  The school district will continue to collect in perpetuity 3 times the revenue  they would otherwise receive without the TAD.
4) If the school board doesn’t do the TAD, the Assembly Project will get abated from the Doraville Development Authority. It bears repeating, with NO TAD the school district GETS NO TAXES FOR 15+ YEARS.
Jim Burress – As you see the redevelopment question and how DeKalb County Schools play into that with the TAD. It sounds to me like you’re saying it’s a moot point, it doesn’t matter because it’s going to happen anyway.
Dr. Melvin Johnson – I think it will happen any way. It may not happen with the same profile that is being discussed right now. But, it will certainly happen and it will be developed regardless whether or not the school system participates or not.
That site will be developed with or without a TAD or an abatement. The question is, what kind of development will you get. Atlantic Station as it is could not have happened without a TAD, the Beltline could not have happened without a TAD. Without a TAD, the Assembly Project will not be the next Atlantic Station but a bunch of strip malls and apartments.

Nancy Jester wrote this colorful piece reflecting on Dr. Johnson’s interview.

DeKalb Commissioner Nancy Jester

Article:  TAD Talk  (May 6, 2016)
By: Nancy Jester, DeKalb County Commissioner

… Excerpt …
Early in the interview, Dr. Johnson said, “all funds generated by tax dollars should go to student learning.” He went on to say, “We are judged by how we manage our funds. We are judged by the product and student outcomes.” That sounds wonderful, right?
Sadly, DeKalb Schools does not even comply with state law requiring 65% of total operating expenditures be spent on “direct classroom expenditures”. And, our weak state Department of Education hands out waivers like candy. The state legislature should really do something about that. But, I digress.
For Chairman Johnson to say “all funds…should go to student learning” is duplicitous given the fact that such a low percentage of taxpayer dollars actually make it into the classroom. Furthermore, Dr. Johnson hasn’t exactly been a faithful advocate for improving the percentage of your taxes actually going into the classroom. Nope, he and the majority, kept right on spending your money on bloating the bureaucracy. The district also has some interesting procurement habits but I’ll save that for another blog. And while they were spending all your money for the benefit of adults and not “for the children”, they accumulated a mountain of cash. As of the end of February 2016, DeKalb Schools has over $225 million in operating reserve cash. For the same period the capital fund reserve is over $260 million. With money like that, why aren’t your classrooms at half the size? Why aren’t teachers getting bigger raises? Why are your kids in trailers anywhere? Why do you have to buy toilet paper to send to your kid’s school?
If they aren’t going to spend it on the classroom, they could always give us a tax cut. DeKalb is one of only a handful of districts that can even tax over 20 mils. Right now, we’re paying 23.73 mils. Do you think that extra 3.73 mils is helping? If it was, wouldn’t we see fewer schools on the OSD list rather than the net +3 that were added as targets for state takeover? DeKalb has more schools on that list than any other district.
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5 responses to “FactChecker Reviews Chairman Johnson on the TAD

  1. Who did his math for him? Mr. Bell? Why is his information so far off from the truth? I propose it’s on purpose. It’s too bad, this is how politics work in today’s world. Just tell lies to get your way. Johnson’s constituents only hear what he has to say and will believe him. His constituents will never read this blog and will not be given the truth. They will think he is ‘protecting’ their tax dollars when in fact, he is inhibiting new commercial growth in DeKalb county. Metro Atlanta was just listed as #3 on the list of cities with the most commercial growth in the U.S. Once again, it appears that DeKalb may lose out on that opportunity due to the ineptitude (and/or corruption) of a few of its leaders. No, developers cannot build unique, vibrant places like Atlantic Station or Assembly and the infrastructure required without some public support. The community must be on board and must contribute support in any way necessary if we want to see something special built here. You can either visualize the future or you can’t. It appears that Mr. Johnson simply can’t. Or won’t. Why? Once again, ‘someone’ needs to take a look at who will benefit if the development goes through the housing authority.

  2. Chucky Chauncer

    This comment has been removed.
    Mr. Chauncer, while we welcome your comments, you obviously don’t speak for DeKalb Strong. Thank you for visiting this site.

  3. This is an example of the leadership DEKALB Co. Schools are led by! Lord help us! Can he read and comprehend?

  4. Stan Jester

    Chucky, You say “we” in the context of DeKalb Strong, however, Marjorie Hall Snook is on the board for DeKalb Strong and is the only person who speaks for DeKalb Strong. What is your relationship to DeKalb Strong? Can you point to anything from DeKalb Strong that confirms those positions you say they are taking on this issue?

  5. Marjorie Hall Snook

    Just to clarify, “Chucky Chauncer” is an Internet troll who also posted on the Internet under the name “Cities are Bad”; he is someone very opposed to DeKalb Strong who pretends he speaks for us and spouts nonsense. Pretty much everything he says is despicable and he in no way speaks for DeKalb Strong.
    Note From The Moderator: Marjorie Hall Snook is on the board for DeKalb Strong and her identity on this blog has been confirmed.