Cobb County is facing a multi-million dollar deficit for its 2019 budget. Several factors have put Cobb in its current fiscal situation, including costs related to SunTrust Park, which opened in Cobb County over a year ago. Here are five things to know about the situation:
Cobb’s 2019 budget is facing a $30 million deficit
Cobb County’s budget for 2019 has a hole of at least $30 million as spending by the county government has far surpassed revenue sources. The county has also used up its reserve funds, after taking $26 million from its reserves to make up for a deficit in 2017. Cobb commissioners have yet to come up with a concrete plan to deal with the shortfall, but cuts to services and millage rate increases have both been considered.
The Braves stadium is costing Cobb millions
While SunTrust Park was pitched by former Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee as a smart investment for the county, with 60 percent return on investment each year, those expectations have not come to fruition. The stadium, which opened last year, costs Cobb’s general fund $8.6 million a year in debt obligation, maintenance and police overtime related to the ballpark.
The Battery is generating revenue but not enough
The Battery, the entertainment, shopping and restaurant district surrounding SunTrust Park, produced $460,000 in property taxes that can go toward the general fund last year. It is estimated the Battery also generated about $3 million in additional property taxes and sales taxes. Those funds go toward spending on education and transportation, not the general fund. The Battery is still growing and could increase its tax revenue as more businesses open up.
SunTrust Park is only part of the problem
The Braves stadium is not the sole reason for the budget deficit, but it reflects a pattern of recent increased spending by the county. The county has raised salaries for some government employees and built new parks, issuing bonds to raise $27.4 million to pay for them. At the same time, tax cuts have decreased the amount of money Cobb is bringing in, leading to the deficit it faces.
Cobb County is considering closing parks, raising property taxes
The parks department in Cobb introduced a plan earlier this month to close several parks in order to save money. The plan calls for closing eight parks and recreational centers in an effort to save $3.4 million. An increase to the county’s millage rate is also on the table. According to a presentation created by the Board of Commissioners, millage rates in Cobb have fallen for two decades while the population and demand for services have increased. A hike in the millage rate would lead to higher property taxes in Cobb County.
SOURCES: Cobb County budget and published reports.