Yarbrough Misconstrues Opponents of Braves Deal

The following column was published in the May3rd edition of the Marietta Daily Journal.

The following column was published in the May3rd edition of the Marietta Daily Journal.

Yarbrough Misconstrues Opponents of Braves Deal

By Lance Lamberton

In a recent column by Dick Yarbrough [Braves a success on and off the field thanks to Tim Lee’s efforts. April 17, 2024], I believe Mr. Yarbrough misconstrues opposition to the Braves deal with opposition to the Braves coming to Cobb. No one I know, at least in the county, was opposed to the Braves relocating here. Our issue was how it was being paid for.

The Braves are owned by a multi-billion dollar media conglomerate known as Liberty Media. They easily could have afforded to pay the whole cost of the new ball park without saddling almost half the cost on the backs of Cobb’s taxpayers. If the county wanted to incentivize the move, they could have offered tax relief through the county’s Development Authority. While I am opposed in principle to providing such preferential tax treatment, it is an unfortunate fact of political life that if Cobb doesn’t do it, someone else will, and we need to stay competitive with other counties.

So let’s say the Braves moved to Cobb and footed the bill themselves. Shouldn’t that have resulted in a reduced property tax burden? Of course it should. While Yarbrough touts the increased property tax, sales tax, and other revenue sources like hotel/motel and car rental taxes coming about as a result of the move, think of how much more would be in county and school district coffers if taxpayers weren’t forced to fork over an Additional $300 million over 30 years to pay for a for-profit entertainment venue. What part of the word “inappropriate” when it comes to taxpayer supported enterprises do the boosters of the Braves deal not understand?

Yet even with the $300 million ransom Cobb taxpayers paid, the county reports that property tax revenue from the deal exceeded what it paid from its general fund to service the debt on the bonds purchased to build the new ball park. In fact, according to Yarbrough, from 2015 to 2022 property and sales taxes from the ball park and businesses that grew up around it have increased by $88 million. With such a windfall, you’d think the county would be working diligently on a way to return some, if not all of that money to the taxpayers who so generously underwrote Liberty Media’s “investment” in the county. If that’s what you thought, you’d be wrong.

In fact, since the Braves have come to Cobb, taxpayers have been subject to an unrelenting series of tax increases. First there was the millage rate increase under Chairman Mike Boyce. Then, thanks to increases in the tax digest due to skyrocketing real estate values, the current Board of Commissioners (BOC) declined to reduce the millage rate even just a little to offset property tax increases. Now the BOC is looking to impose an additional storm water tax, and increase our sales tax from 6 to 7% to pay for a new transit tax over the next 30 years. Moreover, in a move intended to hoard as much money as possible from the taxpayer, the county is now claiming it does not owe the cities reimbursement for services they provide, like police and fire, even though the provision of such services relieves the county from having to provide them. Talk about double taxation.

So while the financial reports from the Braves deal are all positive, the plight of taxpayers since the move continues to deteriorate.  This is because the current BOC is consumed with a culture of greed. Despite receiving millions in payments from the federal government in response to the pandemic, somehow the county can never find a way to give taxpayers so much as even a sliver of relief. Instead, it spends tens of thousands on consultant’s fees so we can be “educated” on the virtues of the new transit tax, or to implement Diversity, Equity and Inclusion so the county can guarantee equality of outcome rather than equality of opportunity.

Clearly the county is headed in the wrong direction despite the presence of the Braves in our midst. Only a course correction in this year’s primaries and general election provides us with any opportunity to right the wrongs that we currently suffer.

Lance Lamberton is the Chairman and founder of the Cobb Taxpayers Association, which is currently a member of a coalition of organizations seeking to defeat the Transit Tax that will likely be on this November’s general election ballot. For more information, go to www.cobbtaxpayer.com

Leave a Reply