ALL THE BACK AND FORTH over the issuance (and/or non-issuance) of bonds to purchase green space in Cobb County is heating up with the runoff election just a month away. It’s a frequent topic at commission meetings, often appears in the MDJ Letters to the Editor column and is knocking around the internet like a pinball off a flipper.
Despite all the exposure, though, the issues aren’t fully understood.
Confusion has resulted because, like many things left to the politicians and bureaucrats, the various bond programs and their relationships to each other are overly complicated.
But misunderstandings also have resulted because the parks bonds and their link to the construction of SunTrust Park have become a political football for the upcoming runoff election between incumbent Cobb Chairman Tim Lee and challenger Mike Boyce.
If it’s going to loom largely in the election’s outcome, it’s important for people to have a clear understanding of the issue. And that’s just not been happening.
Case in point: Some believe that the county has been collecting taxes on the “2008 Parks Bond” despite the fact the bonds were never issued. This has led some to ask how that money has been spent if not for parklands. The point is illustrated by this excerpt from a recently submitted Letter to the Editor:
- “Property taxes for all three Park Bonds (1996, 2006 and 2008) have been collected for years, but the 2008 Park Bond has not been issued, and not one acre of parkland has been purchased in nearly a decade. Many wonder where the tax money for the 2008 Park Bond went. Why have property taxes been collected for the 1996, 2006 and 2008 Park Bonds, yet the $40 million Park Bond 2008 has not been spent?”
The confusion comes from what is referred to by “2008 Parks Bond.” Some use the term when referring to the referendum approved by voters in November of 2008. Others interpret the term to refer to the parks bonds approved in 2006, but issued in 2008.
To clear up the matter, Around Town questioned Bill Volckmann, assistant comptroller for Cobb County, who refuted the statement and confirmed that the county had not been collecting money for bonds that were never issued. Here is his reply:
- “The property taxes that are collected in the County’s debt service fund can only be used to pay the debt service on the County’s existing General Obligation Bonds. The County currently has three General Obligation Bonds outstanding (see below). The County did not issue the additional $40 million of Parks Bonds approved by the voters on Nov. 8, 2008. Again, the tax collections are needed to pay the existing debt service on the outstanding bonds. The County is not collecting taxes for the $40 million in parks that were approved by the voters, but not issued.”
While there are other disagreements and misconceptions out there over the parks bonds, Around Town’s intent here was to address what had been brought to our attention.
MDJ Article: Around Town: Pruning puzzlement over parks bonds