November 10, 2016
$85,000,000 more in bonds issued on top of $1.1 Billion
In October 2015, TWG reported that the JDA planned to sell much of their land in Stanton Springs to a developer, Kippy Clarke, at a huge (approximately $4.2 Million) loss of the investment taxpayers had made. Steve Jordan, a JDA member from Jasper County, told me that the deal was “the best they could do.” Because of so much vocal opposition throughout the 4 counties, this deal fell through.
We also learned in October 2015 that Baxter had partnered with Rockdale County schools instead of any of the schools in the 4 counties, and that Newton County had kept the property taxes they collected for the past 10 years on JDA/TPA land instead of distributing the taxes among the 4 counties.
In January 2016, TWG revealed the $1.1 Billion in bonds that JDA approved for Baxter in 2012. Despite what JDA board members say, this was a well kept secret that very, very few people knew about until this year.
After the revelation of the $1.1 Billion bonds, the 4 counties then had to bail out the JDA because it was to going to default on its notes. The 4 counties will end up paying $1.9M on the $1.3M loan and $713,000 on the $600,000 line of credit to the Bank of Madison according to the JDA payment schedule.
In February 2016, 5 lawyers met, one from each county along with the JDA lawyer, to determine what ‘all’ meant and decide how much money Newton County owed to Morgan, Jasper, and Walton Counties. The JDA also said it would hold a public meeting with citizens and commissioners to explain everything. That meeting never happened.
In May 2016 the Newton Citizen reported that JDA was considering more tax incentives. The elections kept people from noticing.
In August 2016 the JDA reveals a new 50-year IGA with the 4 counties, and allows Newton County to take 5 years to pay the other counties. The agreement also includes JDA submitting a budget each year to the counties for funding. During the discussion at the JDA meeting, those attending were informed how much more transparent JDA would now be.
The JDA budget for FY16-17 is $1,026,654, which was revealed in October 2016.
In November 2016 another $85 Million of “phantom bonds” for Shire was approved by JDA after a special called, 24 hour notice, 8:00AM meeting. How transparent can you get?
It was revealed by JDA representatives at the 11/7/16 BOC meeting, that these $85M of bonds were part of the new 50-year agreement. Comm. Pennamon, nor anyone else, brought this up until after the BOC voted to approve the new 50-year IGA.
It seems strange that Shire cannot pay for the additional expansion themselves. Shire/Baxalta made over $962M in PROFITS in the 3rd Q of 2016 alone. I asked why Shire couldn’t fund this expansion themselves during the BOC meeting. The answer was it had to do with the tax exemption. The bonds really seem to have nothing to do with the property tax exemption allowed by JDA to Baxter/Baxalta/Shire. That exemption comes because the property is in the name of the JDA.
Another question is, how much does Shire save and/or what benefits does Shire get from these $85M in “phantom bonds?’ I understood that answer to be it saved Shire $22M in taxes. I have requested a written answer to this question but haven’t received it.
Everyone at the BOC meeting was assured by Comm. Pennamon, Comm. Trammell, JDA (Andrea Gray) and Rep. Susan that Jasper County would be getting $40M over 50 years (starting in 2018 or at the latest 2020). Big figures are used to make it sound “unbelievable” and “wonderful.” This would be $800,000 per year.
The cash flow projections distributed by JDA show $5.4M to Jasper County over the 10 year period starting 2018. $540,000 a year would be a huge help for Jasper County; but only if it is used for needs instead of wants, and only if it lowers our property taxes –something that has been promised since JDA started over 15 years ago.
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.