Atlanta schools may be stripped of seat on Fulton development board

The Development Authority of Fulton County's board of directors is shown during a 2019 meeting at the Fulton County Government Center in Atlanta. Photo by Phil Skinner/AJC FILE PHOTO
The Development Authority of Fulton County's board of directors is shown during a 2019 meeting at the Fulton County Government Center in Atlanta. Photo by Phil Skinner/AJC FILE PHOTO

Atlanta Public Schools could lose its spot on Fulton County’s development authority board before the district’s representative even gets seated.

Nearly two years ago, concerns raised by APS and Fulton County Schools led to a promised change in the makeup of the nine-member board, a group that approves tax incentives for construction projects.

Two spots on the board were reserved for one representative from each of the districts, though the new members aren’t slated to be seated until later this year.

The APS representative is yet to be named for the four-year term scheduled to start to June 1.

Now he or she may never get the chance to serve.

Fulton County Commissioner Marvin Arrington wants to strip APS of its future seat on the board, citing the school district’s repeated attempts to restrict the development authority’s power. Under his proposed change, Fulton County Schools would still get a representative.

Commissioners are scheduled to discuss striking the spot designated for APS at a meeting today.

ExploreMore metro Atlanta education stories

APS officials said tax abatements awarded by the development authority reduced the school system’s revenue by millions of dollars in recent years. APS wants greater scrutiny of those deals with developers. School system officials previously said the agency hands out too many tax breaks in “red-hot” areas like Midtown and Buckhead, where APS officials don’t believe public money is needed to spur luxury developments.

The school board late Tuesday issued a one-page statement voicing strong opposition to the proposal to take away the APS spot at the decision-making table.

“... (W)e were excited that APS would finally have actual say over tax abatement decisions that have a direct financial impact on our students, teachers and schools, and on the taxpayers of the City of Atlanta, who often have to cover the budget shortfalls APS experiences when the abatements hit the APS budget too hard in any one year,” it read. “APS needs consistency and transparency over the granting of school tax abatements.”

For years there’s been friction between the school district and the county development agency.

In October, the school board made its position clear when it unanimously approved a resolution calling for the county agency to stop handing out incentives for projects located within the city. The city’s economic development arm, Invest Atlanta, should be the only one giving those tax breaks in the city, APS argued. The Atlanta City Council also approved a resolution making the same case.

And for at least two straight years, APS has made it a legislative priority to try to restrict the tax breaks handed out by the county agency to only “those projects that would not be developed otherwise.”

Arrington pointed to the school district’s attempts to restrict the development agency as the reason why a spot on the board should not be reserved for APS.

“It seems incongruent for us to make an accommodation to include an APS representative and then to have them advocate for the removal of the development authority or the inability for the development authority to develop inside the city of Atlanta,” he told fellow commissioners at a meeting two weeks ago.

In Other News