Commissioner Seeking Opinions From Local Mayors PDF Print E-mail
News - Local News
Thursday, 08 February 2018 14:15
Commissioner Jason Winters wants to meet all the mayors in Chattooga County this month and ask if they are interested in participating in a 1-percent sales tax.
Once he meets with the mayors, the next step is asking county voters if they support a 1-percent sales tax. That vote would be held on May 22.
The commissioner plans to take part of the sales tax money and reduce property taxes with it. This plan is still in its infancy, Commissioner Winters said. The first hurdle is meeting with the mayors to see if they support an additional sales tax.
The county currently pays 7-percent and if voters approve, the rate could go to 8-percent.
"We are working to get that meeting set up. That meeting has to be conducted by the end of February," the commissioner said.
Georgia law requires the commissioner to meet with city representatives. He'll ask each mayor if they want to participate and receive a portion of revenues generated off the sales tax.
"We are absolutely interested," Lyerly Mayor Jim Ferguson said. 
He said Lyerly could use some additional monies to help with paving projects around the town. He said he will be looking forward to meeting with Winters. 
The City of Menlo also needs additional paving funds, according to Mayor Theresa Canada. The state pays for a small amount of paving each year. That small amount Menlo receives from the state, however, is not enough to cover all their paving needs, she said.
"We typically always need money for paving," Mayor Canada said. "We certainly will sit down and talk."
While local municipalities are looking at transportation needs, the county wants to use its money to reduce property taxes as well.
"We are wanting to take some of the money to roll back [reduce] property taxes," Winters said. 
Winters is seeking advice from the Georgia Department of Revenue on whether the county can use the sales tax revenue to reduce the property tax burden.
He isn't sure how much it can be reduced. But the commissioner hopes for at least 2-3 mills reduction.
"Once we meet with the cities we will then have some precise numbers to work with," Commissioner Winters said. "We need to hold that meeting and see what the consensus is," Winters said.
If the mayors do not want to participate, the county can still put the issue on the ballot. Without the mayors involved, the county would not be eligible for a full 1-percent sales tax. The county would be eligible for .75-percent (three-quarters of a percent) instead, Winters said.
"This is a good opportunity to bring in much needed revenue to aid in road paving and sidewalk projects," Winters said.
Trion Mayor Larry Stansell agrees that a sales tax would be good for not only the county, but also for his town.
"I would support it if it is going to help us pave streets and maintain," Mayor Stansell said. "We have a desperate need."
Trion does not have enough money to keep up with the number of streets that need repaving, Mayor Stansell said. Additional sales tax dollars would help. 
"I think it is a very good idea for a county or community that is rated as one of the poorest in the state," Mayor Stansell said. 
If voters approved, the commissioner would not use the full amount collected on property tax rollback. He wants to use a significant portion, but not all, Winters said. 
The commissioner is taking advantage of new state legislation that allows counties to collect a 1-percent tax for transportation-specific projects. If voters approved, the county will no longer rely on property taxes to pay for local paving and road maintenance.
The 1-percent sales tax is projected to generate about $11.5 million over a five-year period, according to county figures.
If voters give the green light, collections would begin in the fall of 2018.
Other counties in Georgia are also taking advantage of the new state law. Most of them plan to use the additional sales tax on specific projects. For example, Houston County wants to spend $36.7 million on widening part of Highway 41 and Macon-Bibb County wants to extend a certain road to Interstate 16.
Chattooga's sales tax is different because it replaces property taxes used to fund roads and bridges in the county's budget. There isn't a specific list of projects.

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