Nov. 15 was the due date for corporate property tax payers in Fayette County, and Fayetteville’s sprawling Fayette Pavilion shopping center still pays the largest bill, which amounts to more than $1.2 million, according to figures released this week by Fayette County Tax Commissioner George Wingo.
Coweta-Fayette Electrical Membership Corporation is not far behind, paying just over $814,000 this year in property taxes, followed by Peachtree City’s Cooper Lighting at nearly $486,000 and Georgia Power at over $418,000.
The fifth biggest bill went to BellSouth at nearly $378,000, followed by Sany America at more than $369,000, Atlanta Gas Light at almost $368,000, Camden Summit Partnership at nearly $340,000, NCR at nearly $329,000 and, rounding out the top ten list, Hoshizaki at more than $296,000.
According to Wingo, property value assessments are based on what existed on the property as of Jan. 1 of the year, so anything added or completed after that day will then be counted on the next year’s property tax bill.
Pinewood Atlanta Studios in Fayetteville, for example, only had one studio building completed by Jan. 1, 2014, but by this next New Year’s Day, they will pay taxes on five completed studios as well as several support buildings, not to mention the former Rivers Elementary School campus the same investors purchased directly across Sandy Creek Road from the studio campus.
Were it not for the 20-year tax abatement given by Fayette County Development Authority to secure the studio deal, which means investors only pay five percent of their normal bill this year, Rivers Rock II LLC and associated company Pinewood Atlanta LLC would have been the fourth largest property tax payer in Fayette, just behind Cooper Lighting and just before Georgia Power.
As it is, the combined studio company paid only $23,914.03 in 2014 property taxes. Based solely on what was completed by Jan. 1 of this year, the normal combined tax bill would have in theory been 478,280.60. Development authority officials are quick to note that, without the tax abatement deal, there is no guarantee the Pinewood project, which they originally called “Project Stargate”, would have landed in Fayette County in the first place.
According to Fayette County Development Authority documents, the development authority itself is the lease holder of both the 288.5-acre studio property on one side of the road and the nearly 26-acre school building property on the other side of the road. The development authority issued a total of $52 million in bonds financed by Synovus Bank for a 20-year term to purchase the land and build the studio facilities, and every year the lease contract allows for the development authority to give the studio company five percent equity.
The school building is now called Pinewood Production Center.
This year, Pinewood Atlanta and Rivers Rock II, both of which are owned by Chick-fil-A’s Cathy Family, have five-percent equity. Next year, they will have ten percent. By 2033, they will have full ownership.
Because the Cathys only technically own five percent of the studio and production center campuses, they only pay five percent of what would have been the total tax bill, and because the development authority is a government entity, it pays no property tax at all.
Essentially, the Cathys’ companies pay a full tax bill on their percentage of equity in the project.
The good news, which is trumpeted by Fayetteville and Fayette County officials, is that over time Pinewood will potentially be the largest property tax payer in the county.