February 9, 2018
Shane Short, Walton County Economic Development Director, gave a 20 minutes presentation about JDA (Stanton Springs) to the BOC and those in attendance at the February 5, 2018 meeting. He said he was asked to take the lead on the development of Stanton Springs by the JDA Board sometime last year.
According to Mr. Short, JDA still has businesses thinking about locating at Stanton Springs. He then told about the recent plans to bring Morning Hornet LLC (reported to be a Facebook data center) there. He said there would be a bond resolution of $48 BILLION to be approved at the Morgan County Courthouse on February 14, 2018 and that there was “No way the counties or JDA would be responsible for one dime [of these bonds].” The JDA always emphasizes this in every release to convince the public everything is fine even when dealing in billions of dollars. (The legal ad states the bonds resolution will be for $42 BILLION.)
Morning Hornet will pay JDA a fee for issuing the bond. Mr. Short said it would be a “six figure dollar amount” to go to JDA, not the counties. According to the Morgan Citizen, JDA will receive “$1.25 million for facilitating the bond process.”
Mr. Short also discussed PILOT –Payments in Lieu of Taxes. He said the PILOT is “significant,” and would be $1M per year per building. The plan is for four or five buildings, and according to Mr. Short, JDA would collect PILOT payments whether Morning Hornet builds the other buildings or not. REMEMBER: All income goes to JDA, not the counties. JDA then decides how much it will distribute to the counties after their expenses and various capital expenditures in Stanton Springs the JDA board approves.
A total of 416 acres will be sold with about 250 acres owned by JDA and the rest owned by TPA, which was purchased from JDA at a cost of approximately $13,500 per acre. The selling price will be $62,500 per acre. TPA will make approximately an $8,000,000 profit on their part. (It has always been a mystery how TPA makes big profits off land sales but the taxpayers of the four counties have never seen any income.) JDA will receive approximately $15,625,000 from the sale of land, plus additional money from the timber being cut off the land before the sale. When asked what would be done with all this money, Mr. Short said JDA would immediately pay off all their debt of around $7.5M and use the other money (about $8M) to “extend the parkway” to bring in more businesses.
When asked about jobs, Mr. Short said there would be 50 full time employees per building. This mean there will be at least 50 employees and possibly no more since Morning Hornet is under no obligation to build more than one building. Building #1 will cost approximately $750,000,000, which to our understanding of what Mr. Short said, includes the data server equipment in the building.
After other questions from both the BOC and audience, Comm. Pennamon said that so far (over approximately 20 years) Jasper County has paid in $1.2M to JDA. Since Jasper County has 10% participation, it means the taxpayers of the 4 counties (Jasper, Walton, Morgan, and Newton) have paid in $12M to Stanton Springs.
Steve Jordan then added that Shire would start paying taxes next year, and that their tax abatement is now over. (Baxter/Shire’s tax abatement started in 2012 at the earliest, and it was for 10 years.) He also said Jasper County would start getting $1,000,000 per year in 2027, but then said something about receiving that amount in 18 years. Shane Short then added that JDA would be putting more money into Stanton Springs now so they will get more money down the road. Comm. Pennamon said it would be left up to the JDA board to decide the amount of money the counties get.
That “down the road” keeps being extended. First, in 2012 the counties were told that they would never have to put in any more money to JDA, yet Jasper County has still been putting in around $70,000 per year ($700,000 for all 4 counties together). Second, we were told we would start getting money in 2018, which was extended to 2022 (JDA’s presentation to Morgan County BOC last December). Now Jasper County is told they will get $1M per year starting in 2027, or maybe 18 years from now. (Of course, this is if JDA doesn’t put in more parkways or find other ways to spend the money.)
The next big question, how much of the JDA income will this BOC give to the Jasper County Schools? The School Board has not contributed one dime to JDA over all these years.
However, we think the REAL question is, when do you think Jasper County will get any money from JDA? The Jasper County BOC has talked about it for the last 5 years, and what they will do with “all that money.” We are afraid that one of the things the BOC will NOT do with the money is reduce our property taxes, because they have plans to spend, spend, spend it.
Citizens, be informed and stay informed! Only by being informed, can the citizens understand what is being done and talked about, and then press our officials to make good decisions for everyone in Jasper County. That is our goal with the Taxdogs blog.