IN BRIEF: After hours of discussion in executive session and reassurances that all three county commissioners were in support of the deal, the Rockdale County Development Authority voted 5-2 Tuesday to approve the package of tax abatement incentives for Acuity Brands' previously announced expansion. The Development Authority had previously voiced doubts about the incentives package.
The incentives package, offered in August, outlined a full tax abatement, or exemption, for five years on existing and new property and equipment. Over the next five years, that exemption would gradually ramp back, with a 100 percent at year 11. According to a study by Robert Lann Consulting, commissioned by the Development Authority, the incentives would mean a difference of $1.6 million in taxes the county collected over 10 years and a $2 million difference over 20 years. School tax abatement was not included as part of the incentive package.
Conyers-Rockdale Economic Development Council Director Marty Jones pointed out that the Acuity expansion with the incentives proposed would have a $950,000 positive impact on Rockdale County Revenues over ten years and the school system would have a positive impact of $2,900,000 over ten years.
Development Authority board members Roland Vaughn and Dr. Stephen Boyle voted against while Gerald Rakestraw, Rick Simons, John Hurt, Ed Cowan, and Mike Sullivan voted in favor of the package.
The Development Authority's main contention was giving abatements to taxes on existing property. Vaughn and Boyle were concerned it set a bad precident. "It's simple. We're giving away existing taxes and the taxpayer suffers one way or the other," said Boyle. "At a time when we're trying to find money in reserves to pay the budget," added Vaughn. They said they had not heard of other areas or development authorities granting abatements on existing properties.
Rockdale County Chief of Staff Gerald Sanders assured the Development Authority board all three commissioners were updated and familiar with the terms of the deal and were in support of moving forward on it.
"We believe first and foremost a commitment was put on the table. We need to honor our intent," said Sanders. "Not honoring a commitment that we made... cuts off the spigot, as my grandmother would say, of potential projects."
Gov. Nathan Deal's office announced in October that Acuity Brands will expand its operation, creating 700 jobs and investing more than $16 million into Rockdale and DeKalb counties over the next five years. The expansion negotiations were carried out through the state's economic development arm.