The Brunswick City Commission on Wednesday passed a resolution approving the creation of a tax allocation district encompassing 481 acres and 8.95 percent of the city's tax digest.
For those unfamiliar, a tax allocation district is a redevelopment power authorized by state law. It is a physical zone, in this case covering the Newcastle and Gloucester streets corridors downtown, southern Norwich Street, and U.S. Highway 17 from Prince Street northward to Goodyear Elementary School.
Within this district, the city may borrow bonds or use incremental tax funding to finance community revitalization projects — street lights, road repair and police precincts, for example. If bonds are used, they are repaid using new property tax revenues brought in by rising property values spawned by public investment in infrastructure.
The city can forge ahead on its own, but for a tax allocation district — TAD, for short — to be successful, it needs the school board and county commission to agree to the plan, and relinquish their shares of tax growth toward paying off bonds, or a "pay as you go" model.
The News urges the county commission and school board to sign on to this proposal.
Brunswick is at a tipping point. A new brewery and distillery are under construction downtown, city officials are working to bring a hotel and conference center to the historic district and Mary Ross Waterfront Park is set for renewal. In less than five years, downtown Brunswick can be the destination it has always had the potential to be.
A TAD is only part of the plan. It is not a silver bullet, but it is a start. TADs have been successful in other communities, and spurred public-private partnerships with limited liability to tax payers. In LaGrange, for example, the city council approved a TAD for its downtown in 2015, and a year later, a Marriott Courtyard hotel was under construction on the town square, and a Wild Leap brewery was built. Now, multi-family housing is planned for a spot where a run-down dive bar once stood. In Atlanta, the site of a former steel mill, tainted by decades of industrial pollution, was transformed into a bustling commercial hub, with movie theaters, high-rise office buildings and housing — all thanks to a TAD.
Like many things in government, TADs are complicated. That's why Brunswick officials contracted a leading firm to compile the research and craft the plan. Residents can read the draft plan online at brunswickga.org/sg_userfiles/TAD.pdf. The study claims the TAD could attract as much as $168 million in investment during its life. That's not chump change. In fact, for every $1 of incremental tax funding invested by the city, $9.12 in private investment are expected to be returned.
Of course, the plan is not without risk. Mismanagement, improper allocation of resources or a host of other factors could complicate the matter. That's why it is important for city officials to be transparent, forthright and no-nonsense with the public — and the press — when explaining and executing this plan. So far, they have been.
We believe a TAD is the right direction for Brunswick, and hopefully we share that view with the school board and county commission. In the coming weeks, we shall see.