Although the Homestead Option Sales Tax proposal failed on a recent ballot, county commissioners still are looking for a feasible way to shift the tax burden from property taxes to sales taxes.
The Cherokee County Board of Commissioners Feb. 5 unanimously approved a resolution modeled after Cobb County’s, which would back state legislation designed to allow for the collection of a fractional penny for specified projects.
Commissioners had been asked to support a move for legislation by Rep. John Carson, R-Roswell, who also represents Cobb County.
County Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens said if legislation allowing a fractional Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) collection were approved, counties could compose a list of needs for the collection. “If it turns out you need less than a penny, you charge less than a penny,” he said.
Post 1 Commissioner Harry Johnston said the legislation would be useful if governments don’t need to collect a full penny or don’t think voters would approve a full penny.
“There’s no harm in having that flexibility,” Johnston said, noting the resolution addressed SPLOST collections, but did not have anything to do with HOST.
“This resolution that Cobb has written is a good one,” said Post 4 Commissioner Jason Nelms.
Ahrens said cities may come out in opposition of the fractional sales tax legislation because they might be afraid they would not get their share of SPLOST project funding.
He also said Cobb County is encouraging state legislation to reword HOST ballot language so that people can understand what the question signifies. “Right now, it’s unintelligible,” he said.
The county also is focusing on the possibility of collecting transfer taxes owed by big banks involved in local foreclosures.
After an executive session with County Attorney Angie Davis, the commission amended the agenda to include consideration of special services agreement regarding joining a class action lawsuit suing Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and the Federal Housing Administration. The commissioners unanimously approved it.
Davis said Cherokee would join several other counties, including Cobb, Fulton and Gwinnett, “with a multitude of foreclosures over the past few years” to collect unpaid transfer taxes in the amount of one-tenth of 1 percent of the tax on a real estate title transfers from the organizations, which Davis said are claiming that they are exempt from having to pay.
“That’s not holding water, but still, we’re not holding our breath that we would collect anything,” she said.
County Manager Jerry Cooper said a rough estimate of what the lenders owe the county is $150,000. Davis said the attorneys bringing the suit would work on a contingency basis and would not collect a fee unless they garner a settlement.
Commissioners also discussed several questions Post 3 Commissioners Brian Poole received from resident Steve Marcinko, regarding the Ball Ground Recycling situation.
After discussing whether or not to have a town hall/work session on the matter, commissioners decided to have Cooper compile a frequently asked question and answer list regarding all aspects of the situation that can be discussed outside the realm of the county litigation against brothers, Jimmy and David Bobo. That list would be posted on the county’s transparency Web site page.
Nelms said the commissioners need to focus on a solution — finding an operator — rather than expending more energy on hashing out what happened.
“There will be a detailed document from the forensic audit,” he said.
In other business, the commission:
• heard Ahrens reappoint Debra Frieden to a seven-year term on the county Board of Ethics;
• heard Poole appoint Bill Dewrell to the county Zoning Board of Appeals;
• unanimously approved allowing Cooper to execute amendment one to the 2011 professional services agreement with Convergint Technologies Inc. for an annual cost not to exceed $17,689 for maintenance of the county electronic key and lock systems for 2013. This is a 5 percent reduction from the 2012 annual fee with savings of $2,793 over the next three years;
• unanimously approved awarding a contract to Ascension Counseling and Mental Health, the low bidder, for a maximum cost not exceeding $960 per participant (along with $30 initial fee) for treatment through the Blue Ridge Judicial Circuit Drug Accountability Court;
• unanimously approved awarding a contract to the sole bidder and current vendor, North Georgia Amateur Umpire Association for the 2013 adult/youth softball season;
• unanimously approved an additional agreement with NJ Wilbanks Contracting for additional costs associated with relocation of a detention pond and revisions to the water main design on Commerce Boulevard in the amount of $111,164 (Northside Hospital–Cherokee will reimburse the county for the expense); and
• approved a Georgia Department of Transportation contract for $254,973 for the procurement of six replacement buses for the Cherokee Area Transportation System (CATS). Also, unanimously approved a contract with Total Care Transportation Services for off-peak CATS transportation services as needed for $9,822 — costs to be reimbursed by the state.