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Yeah, I really don’t like UGA….. But…..


 As a graduate of Georgia Tech, it is instilled in me not to like UGA.   From the liberal academics to the overrated football team, I just don’t like them.    But even this Yellow Jacket will have to admit it when something good comes from that school.    Hawkinsville / Pulaski County is one of only a few ARCHWAY PARTNERSHIP COMMUNITIES within the state of Georgia.   The Archway Partnership is a program of the University System that aspires to help communities solve problems, reach goals, and do transformative work by allocating the resources of the University System and partnering to help the communities utilize their own resources as well.    The program is a win-win for all involved.   The Communities get resources that would otherwise not be feasible from either a logistical or a financial limitation.   The University gets to provide students with real-life opportunities to better education and train them.  The students get to do important work to show to future potential employers.

We have been involved in the Archway Partnership for over 5 years now and the benefits are real and noticeable.   In the area of Leadership, Archway has led an adult leadership program that has now trained over 200 residents and got them involved in all aspects of our community.  The adult leadership program has been such a success, that they are now self-sustaining with their own 501-C3 organization.  In addition to training, each year’s group does a community project that does GOOD within our town.   From providing protective armor to our Sheriff’s department, to providing defibrillators to community venues, to providing rural water pumping equipment to our fire department, to providing trash cans to our downtown and much more.    The leadership initiative also includes a youth leadership component that is providing insight to community concerns as well as getting feedback from this demographic as we seek to improve our community.

In the area of Economic Development, Archway has helped with many RFP (Request for Proposals) that different companies or the state of Georgia sends out to highlight what our community has to offer to potential businesses or industries.

Also under the heading of Development, Archway has been instrumental in helping revitalize our downtown.  From Beautification efforts (through developing a Master Gardner’s program) to helping develop a Downtown Merchant’s Association, Archway has led the efforts.

Archway is a vital partner (with our Family Connections Program) in bringing the TEEN MAZE to our schools every other year.   TEEN MAZE provides a gaming environment where students are presented with real life situations that often complicate their expected path to graduation.   Over 200 volunteers (from our community of slightly over 10,000 people) help make this event a rousing success.

Archway helped grow a local at-risk teenager program – Life League.   Life League is now in multiple counties and strives to teach at-risk students real life situational events such as How to perform in an interview, How to tie a tie, why work-ethics and being on time are important.   While using basketball to attract the young people, real education is being conducted.

Archway has brought the resources of the Pharmacy School of UGA to help our local Hospital research problem areas such as why people are not taking their medicines as prescribed.  They have helped our hospital with IRS requirements to keep / prove their non-profit status.

Archway has helped with the city / county relationships by being an unbiased middle man.   They provide a safe non partial environment to iron out differences in tax equity and service delivery areas.  So much so, that now Hawkinsville and Pulaski county have served as models for other communities on city-county relations.

They have helped us rebrand ourselves and helped design a new website to promote the new brand.

Archway has helped with Design Charets, signage design and placement, and more from the college of Environmental design.

Archway has even helped area businesses such as Hardy Farms look at ways to promote Agri-Tourism.   They are helping Lamar Pecans develop a Pecan Cracking machine.

I could go on and on.

The reason I am writing this post is that I am currently attending the annual Archway summit at UGA.  The Summit allows us to interact with other Archway Communities so that we can see their best practices and understand what has worked for other communities.  It also allows us to see “behind the curtain” to the staff and students behind the Archway Partnership.   I sometimes just think that our own Michelle Elliott (our local Archway Professional) is the magical OZ that gets it all done.   The summit allows me to see the people backing up Michelle to pull off these extraordinary efforts.

The picture below is the UGA Men’s choir entertaining us at the summit.   Except for the UGA fight song, they were pretty good.   So, while I still don’t like UGA, I’ll have to admit, the Archway Partnership is a great program.   Even UGA gets it right occasionally.

My TOP Goals for 2016 for the City of Hawkinsville


  1. hawkinsvilleContinue the downtown beautification efforts.
  2. Refund our dilapidated housing efforts. (We previously identified 106 structures that are dilapidated, blighted, and past the point of repair and are unlivable.  Due to previous efforts, 42 of these structures have been torn down – most without any tax dollars.   We need to continue this push, but a budget item must be funded for the few cases where the CITY has to tear down the structure (subsequently putting a lien on the property to recoup those dollars)).
  3. Prepare a balanced budget that does NOT raise our citizen’s millage rate. (We have managed to keep our millage rate at the same rate for over 20 years).
  4. Continue to improve and market our Hawkinsville Harness Training Facility.
  5. In conjunction with DDA, I would like to see the city purchase a vacant downtown building, fix it up, and rent it to a new business (even at a reduced rate), with the understanding that after one year, the business would either purchase or begin paying market rent.   If purchased, we would use those funds to do another, and then another, and then…..
  6. Continue to work to improve the River Market and the River Walk.
  7. Continue to work with our partners at the Arts Council to better promote and utilize our Historic Opera House.
  8. BRING IN INDUSTRY in our industrial park.
  9. BRING IN ANOTHER GROCERY STORE.
  10. Continue to help grow our existing businesses.
  11. Continue to help lead with GMA (Georgia Municipal Association) in helping forge state and federal legislation as it deals with cities. (and stopping the influx of unfunded mandates).
  12. Improve our airport.
  13. Resurface more streets within our city.
  14. Modernize our software system to allow for direct drafts and debit cards.
  15. Increased usage of Social Media by both myself and the city as a whole.
  16. Begin working on our next SPLOST planning to include more recreation on this side of the river. (new post coming soon on this)
  17. Begin working on our next SPLOST planning to include the new City Hall.
  18. Continue to look for grant opportunities to help us with our aging infrastructure.
  19. Continue to work with the county on doing a better job of tax equity between the City and County and the continued consolidation of services.
  20. Expand and maintain our city cemetery.
  21. Expand our Natural Gas Capacity.

This is not a complete list NOR is it in priority order.

What do YOU think we should add to this list?   I would love to hear YOUR concerns….

Downtown Beautification….


downtownFollowing input from the downtown merchants that the appearance of downtown had to be improved before encouraging tours, events or economic Development, we have:

The Chamber, Pulaski Tomorrow and Youth Leadership did a downtown clean up in June.

The City, Archway and the Women’s Prison- developed a plan to get the existing prison detail more involved in the upkeep and maintenance of the Commerce Street area, including the eight irrigated flower beds and Cabero Park.

The City and Archway have engaged the Master Gardeners of Central Ga to help us by telling us how best to landscape downtown and develop a sustainability plan for the future.  They will also be assisting us with a design to make Cabero Park more usable and attractive.  This is a current ongoing project.

The Women’s Prison Detail has cleaned out the beds and with the help of the City of Hawkinsville public works department and removed everything that the Master Gardeners said we had managed to kill.  This is also in accordance with gardening practices where fall would be a time to prepare for planting.  Much of the soil had no nutrients and irrigation systems needed maintained.  Dead plants and trees have been removed.

In June of this year, Pulaski Tomorrow Class of 2015 raised over $2,600 for waste receptacles for downtown (I think some of the money is going to signage though).  About a month ago, they agreed to purchase 6 containers. Ginger Lancaster is coordinating to get a status update on the order.

The Hawkinsville Garden Club contributed $1,000 in September (to the Downtown Development Authority) for the purchase of supplies and materials for the Women’s Prison Detail to purchase gardening tools and plants, etc.

In February, the new Master Gardener classes begin in Central Georgia.  A component of the program is dedicated community service to one’s home county.  The City of Hawkinsville has agreed that the City could fund the tuition for 4 or 5 local people ($195 each) to go through the program.  These individuals would then use their community service hours to train and assist the women’s prison detail on the Commerce street project.  This will provide sustainability for the project and valuable job skills training for the women that will improve their outlook upon release.

Also, we applied for (City, Chamber) but did not receive a TPD grant to restore the Way and Way mural and create 2 more.  We could reapply next year.

So, yes, as people have indicated, the downtown area needs improvement, but the improvements ARE UNDER WAY.    The city has limited resources and often we have to neglect one area in order to work on other areas.  Each year we change the areas that we are focusing on (again, due to limited resources).   But we ARE focusing currently on improving the looks of our downtown area.

Let’s work together….


potholeOne of the main complaints of any government (local, state or federal) is that they are non-responsive.   I have personally experienced that often.    However, I want to try to help that on a local level.   As you drive around our city and see things that you think the city should improve on…. Let me know.     There are things that we can’t do, such as STATE ROADS, or things that we simply do not have the resources to do.    But let me know about them and I’ll do my best!

Contact me via TWITTER (@shellyb), or facebook (shellyberryhill) or email (shelly@gawebservices.com).  Or comment to this post.     I will at worst, shoot straight with you and let you know the status!   Pictures of the issues are always appreciated as well.

Thanks,

Shelly

It Takes A Village…..


harness track  Over the last couple of years we have seen LOTS of improvements at the Lawrence Bennett Harness Training Facility.   The City of Hawkinsville has hired a new track manager, Jim Valiente, and have strived to give him the people, tools, and resources that he needs to make this facility a success.    Even on the years that it has not been a financial success, the facility still brings much recognition to Hawkinsville.   We are known throughout the state for this unique asset.   But for many years, we have seen declining revenue and an aging facility take its toll.

This year, again primarily to Jim’s recruiting efforts, we are expecting around 220 horses to be housed and trained at this facility.  We are expecting more events that ever to take place at our Arena.    Much good is happening.

And even better, we are really seeing support from our community in helping us with these efforts.   Recently, Donna Rickerson, our Chamber of Commerce Executive Director painted a Surrey mural on the building in the center of the facility previously known as the track Kitchen.  She has also had multiple tour groups from around the state out checking out this facility.    Also our chamber, along with Lee Slade, our local economic development person, helped us secure a $12,500 matching grant in order to improve some of our bunk houses.

The latest group to join these efforts is “Lisa’s Chics”. Lisa Chics (Bobbie Clemons, Donna Clark, Wendy Gordon, Angela Mimbs, Deborah Reneau)  is a helping hands organization formed in 2011 that assist those in need of helping hands with medical expenses and other hardships.  We were formed to originally provide a fundraiser for their friend, Lisa Hatcher Neal, who was battling cancer.  They held their first bake sale in her honor.  She charged them to continue to help others as they did for her during her illness and for them to continue to do so even if she did not survive her cancer.  They have honored her wishes and have held baked sales and other fundraisers to help others in and around our community that need a helping hand.  They were given the opportunity in 2015 to take over the sponsorship of the Harness Festival Pageant for a fundraiser for their group which has enabled them to assist and reach  more people in their efforts.  They donate 10% of their proceeds to the Hawkinsville Chamber Harness Festival; provide a $250 scholarship for the Miss Harness Festival Queen; make a Relay for Life donation to Team Lisa Hatcher Neal and utilize the remainder of the proceeds for their helping hands outreach.  Their latest effor has been to help restore/renovate the former “track kitchen.” The City agreed to supply the paint and supplies, but this group supplied the important part – the labor.   (The were assisted by the 2015 Harness Festival Queens: Reese Folds, Summer Sinyard, Kinsley Smith, India Cheek, Addye Williams, Briana Conner, Ashley Gidney and Skylar Fisler.)

This group held a reception for the horsemen in April 2015 and immediately recognized that the area/facility needed some TLC if it was going to be a place the horsemen and community could utilize in a better fashion.    Chelsea Tyner  (a City of Hawkinsville employee and past Chair of the Chamber’s Harness Festival Committee) posed the idea to Jim Valiante that the group wanted to take on the task and  Mr.  Valiante was most receptive to the idea of the spruce up.   So the project began….

The chics and harness queens have cleaned out and  painted the kitchen and community room walls; pulled up the carpet and painted the community room floor and hall floor. They have cleaned the kitchen and bathrooms.  They will be providing new curtains and decorative items for the community room and kitchen area.  They will be also purchasing a new screen door for the kitchen.  They will supply a minimal amount of landscaping in the front of the building once the area is cleaned out some.    Donations of landscape product and labor are welcomed…

The City is also providing the prison detail to help with pressure washing and painting the outside of the building.   The final piece of the puzzle will be  to have a new fence and welcome sign and erected in front the building that will be a two fold fix.  (1) to identify the area/building (2) and to also block the end of the building that is so unsightly (houses the A/C unit and electrical stuff and is not so nice to look at).   Photographs of the actual harness racing will be supplied by Chelsea Tyner and those will be hung in the community room and changed seasonally.  Chelsea is also framing two “colors”  (I called them jockey jerseys..) to hang in the community room.  A local citizen, Lance Woods,  donated his time this past week for grading around the building to help with drainage and water standing issues in the front entrance.

Other volunteers have been:  Matt Sinyard (helped with painting one evening with his daughter who is one of ther harness  queens; Michelle Fowler, who is one of the Lisa’s Chics’ sisters  she helped paint the kitchen; David White helped haul the pulled out carpet to the dumpster and Jonathan (who lives at the track) – he actually helped cut and remove the carpet from the community room.  Johnny Gordon, our public works director, has also been instrumental in these efforts.

 

Once everything is finished, the community room will be an ideal gathering place to anyone/group to utilize for outreach and contact with the horsemen.  That will be highly encouraged I hope.

Thank you to all who have been involved in this project, and forgive me for leaving anyone out.    It does take a village to accomplish all of our goals.   If you would like to help with this effort or other efforts going on within our community, please feel free to leave a comment here or contact me personally at shelly@hawkinsvillega.net.

Shelly

 

Consolidation of Services Continues……..


consolidationimageThe voters of Hawkinsville / Pulaski County voted down a proposal to consolidate the governments.    One of the primary “selling points” to a consolidated government is lowering costs.     These same lower costs can be obtained through consolidating SERVICES even though the governments themselves remain separate.   The City and the County have done a great job at consolidating services throughout the years.    E911, EMA, Recreation, Tax Collection, Fire, Police, Animal Control, Building and Code Enforcement and Economic Development are already consolidated.

Beginning July 1, 2015 we are adding ANOTHER to the list.    The City is doing away with our Municipal court and turning over traffic fine collections to the county.    With the retirement of City Clerk Evelyn Herrington as well as the retirement Lodie Johnson (who managed our municipal court), the time is right.    By closing down our municipal court, the city will not have to fill Ms. Johnson’s position, thus saving the costs of that position.   We will also not have to retain a municipal Judge.    AND hours of work allocated to the City Clerk will not have to be performed.    The county Probate Judge, Judge Jeff Jones, will begin hearing all traffic violations.    Violations that are CITY ONLY, (such as dilapidated housing ordinance violations), will be heard by a Code Enforcement Board.   We are recommissioning our current Zoning and Codes Board as a Code Enforcement board to hear the few CITY ONLY ordinance violations that are heard each year.

So…..

Consolidation as it relates to cost savings, continues.  As it relates to SERVICES, continues to be an area that we (City and County) continue to explore.   We don’t need a replication of efforts.   We need to continue to find ways to work together to benefit ALL of our citizens.   The taxpayers we all serve are the real winners when our governments work together.

Shelly

HB 170 as of 2/24/15


Well, it is changing again (and this is still in the House Version, we don’t have a clue what the Senate might do).  BUT!  I must say, the current version in the House is good for Hawkinsville.   The School’s ESPLOST will now be unaffected!    No losses for the school system in the current version. The only stipulation is that taxes that are received from Motor Fuels, MUST be spent in the area of Transportation, but the definition is pretty broad.   The City and County’s SPLOST (and Future SPLOSTS) are unaffected, with only the same stipulation – Motor Fuel taxes must be spent on Transportation.   The City and County’s LOST taxes will see an INCREASE in revenue.  Although Motor Fuels are being removed, the rest of the sales tax base will be taxed at 1.25% rather than 1%, so it will be a NET gain to the combined CITY/COUNTY of almost $80,000.

Hotel/Motel Taxes are also being slightly adjusted upward in the current version.  I don’t really understand why.

And as mentioned in an earlier post, the current version of this bill will also FORCE a larger state allocation of LMIG (road resurfacing money).  Although we have to match (30%) of the LMIG allocation, this WILL allow us to resurface additional miles in the years to come.

So….    Although the fat lady has not even gotten up to sing yet, the current version IS good for Hawkinsville.

(I am NOT making any such overall statements about whether this bill is good for GEORGIANS or not.  Any way you slice it, it IS a tax increase on gasoline purchases in Georgia).

Shelly

 

HB 170 – Current Version is MUCH better for our community….


“The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change ” – HeraclitusRoadisopen

― That quote fits really well into the legislative process.   HB 170 – the House version of the transportation bill, as introduced was very UNFRIENDLY to local governments.   (Read my earlier post for full details).   But city’s around the state complained to their respective representatives.  Many cities and counties were passing resolutions asking their representatives to vote NO to House Bill 170.   People were screaming, cussing, and complaining.   But our representatives LISTENED to us, and the current version of this bill shows that.

As it stands now….

The House has made significant efforts to address the concerns expressed by local elected officials about the original bill’s impact on local revenues. HB 170 no longer includes language that would give a county governing sole authority to impose, or not impose, a 6¢ per gallon local excise tax. With the local excise tax option removed, so too is the local distribution formula based on DOT’s Local Maintenance & Improvement Grant (LMIG) program.

HB 170 as it passed the House Transportation Committee would do the following:

  • beginning July 1, 2015, LOST, HOST and Atlanta’s MOST would no longer be collected on the sale of motor fuel;
  • beginning July 1, 2015, the tax rate for LOST, HOST and MOST would be adjusted to 1.25% from the current 1% rate;
  • current and future SPLOSTs and ESPLOSTs would continue to be imposed at a rate of 1%;
  • current and future SPLOSTs and ESPLOSTs would continue to be collected on motor fuel except that diesel would no longer be taxed beginningJuly 1, 2015;
  • for future SPLOSTs and EPLOSTS, any revenue collected from the sale of motor fuel would be required to be spent on transportation needs, which for cities and counties is defined broadly to include transit, rail and airports, and for schools includes the purchase of fuel and buses.

The House Transportation Committee version of HB 170 is a good faith attempt to make cities, counties and schools whole and to use current sales tax agreements for the distribution of revenue. While House leaders are looking for ways to reach the goal of making local governments whole in the aggregate, as with any significant change in what can be taxed as well as tax rates, some jurisdictions would see increases in tax revenue while others would experience a decrease.

In our community, the breakdown is as follows.   (assuming future sales of motor fuels and other taxable products in our community remain somewhat stable with what 2014 saw).

LOST IMPACT:
City of Hawkinsville – Current = $421,455    Under HB170 = $444,800 (Net increase of $23,345)
County – Current =$421,455   Under HB170 = $444,800 (Net Increase of $23,345)

SPLOST IMPACT:
City of Hawkinsville – Current = $421,455    Under HB170 = $411,200 (Net decrease of $23,345)
County – Current =$421,455   Under HB170 = $411,200 (Net decrease of $23,345)

ESPLOST IMPACT
Pulaski County School System – Current = $842,911 Under HB170 = $822,400 (Net decrease of $20,510)

Total Community Impact is a net increase of revenue of a little over $5,600

Another benefit to us locally is that the GDOT is legally mandated to re-distribute at least 10% of its budget allocation for LOCAL improvements (know as LMIG – Local Maintenance and Improvement Grants.   Last year the county received some $200,000 while the city received some $45,000 (to be matched 30%).    Since the GDOT budget will rise SIGNIFICANTLY due to this HB170, our city and county should be receiving somewhere between a 50% and 100% increase in our LMIG allocations.   This should result in many more miles of roads within our city that will be repaved during the 2016 fiscal year!

So, originally, the bill was BAD…..   We complained as did others…..   Our representatives listened and the current version of the bill is palatable.

Now lets wait and see what the Senate version of the bill looks like.

Shelly Berryhill
Hawkinsville City Commission
shelly@hawkinsvillega.net

HB170 – Proposed Transportation Bill in the House


roadclosedAs of today (Valentine’s Day), HB170, the Transportation Bill is in the full transportation committee of the House.   Basically, this bill is changing the current SALES tax on motor fuel (Gas & Diesel) to an excise tax.   The advantage is that this will level out the fluctuating taxes raised by a sales tax which is dependent upon the price of gas which changes daily.   By changing to an excise tax, which is charged PER GALLON rather than PER DOLLAR, it should level out the income received by the state.   The trucking industry also receives larger tax benefits on an excise tax over a sales tax, so the trucking industry will see a huge benefit of this change.  And we all want to help out industries in Georgia.

The State of Georgia is attempting to raise an additional $750 million + (annually) for the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT).   However, THEY (our state elected officials) don’t want to “raise taxes.”   So they are promoting this bill as a “revenue neutral” bill.   Yeah, right!   If they are bringing in an additional almost 1 BILLION dollars, it’s got to come from SOMEWHERE!

That somewhere apparently is going to be from your LOCAL governments (County, City, and School System).   You see, our local governments currently receive 3 cents of every SALES TAX dollar raised.   1 cent goes to LOST (Local Option Sales Tax).   1 cent goes to SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax).  And 1 cent goes to ESPLOST (Educational Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax).

When you remove MOTOR FUELS from these sales taxes, this 3 cents will disappear from the local coffers of your local governments.   We will still receive LOST, SPLOST, and ESPLOST taxes, but not on Motor Fuel Sales.   In Pulaski County, Motor Fuel sales account for almost 16% of the total sales taxes collected in Pulaski County.     Therefore, your school system’s next ESPLOST will be reduced by almost 16% which will amount to a LOSS of income to the Pulaski County School system of approximately $131,410 per year.   Constitutionally, the school system CAN receive sales taxes, but CANNOT receive excise taxes.  And there are no plans by the state to supplement this loss.  There are no plans by the state to help reduce expenses or other requirements.  No, this will be a LOSS each and every year.    ESPLOST is used for capital purchases (Buses, buildings, technology, etc.).    Apparently, the state thinks the school can simply “absorb” this loss of income.   No big deal.   (yeah, right!).

The loss of the 1 cent on SPLOST will effect both the city and the county.   Currently we have a negotiated agreement that we split SPLOST revenues 50/50.   So this loss will effect each of us the same amount.   SPLOST income currently amounts to about $842,911 per year.   By removing Motor Fuels from the calculation, this number will reduce each year to $711,501.  A loss of about $131,410 per year.  This money is going away.   So the county and the city will each face lower SPLOST revenue on the next SPLOST of almost $65,705 EACH!   Like the school’s ESPLOST, SPLOST is used for capital expenditures like Road Equipment, Tractors, Recreation Department improvements, Sheriff Department Vehicles, etc.    This loss of $131,409 per year amounts to a loss to the city and county of $788,460 on the next 6 year SPLOST!    The tractors are STILL going to wear out.  The deputies are STILL going to need vehicles.  Water Meters are STILL going to go bad.  Our option?  We can only raise property taxes or fees to take care of the shortfall.

The loss of the 1 cents on LOST will also effect both the city and the county.   Currently we have a negotiated agreement that we split LOST revenues 50/50.   So this loss will effect each of us the same amount.  LOST income ON MOTOR FUELS current amounts to about $393,690 per year.  So this is ANOTHER $400K that the state is pulling away from local coffers.

BUT WAIT!  NO WORRIES!  The state is going to “come to our rescue.”   They are going to “allow” the county to vote an additional 6 cents excise tax to be added to motor fuel in addition the the excise tax that the state is accessing.   And to hear them talk, “that solves the problem.”   But does it?

In Pulaski County, we sold 4,224,231 gallons of gas in fiscal year 2014.   So the 6 cents would increase the COUNTY coffers by $253,454 each year.   Now last time I used my calculator, $253,454 does not bring back the lose of $140K (in LOST dollars) and $131K (in SPLOST dollars) and $131K (in ESPLOST dollars).   Nope, by my calculations when you combine the decreases in LOST, SPLOST, and ESPLOST, our citizens are being short changed by about $403,000 PER YEAR!    And that is AFTER our sole commissioner implements the 6 cents excise tax.  If he should choose NOT to implement this tax, then the citizens will lose some $650K per year.    Thanks Legislators!

But wait!  There’s more!

Even if our sole commissioner DOES implement the 6 cents of excise tax (taking the heat of a “tax increase” rather than the state taking that heat!), the STATE is telling us HOW he has to split it with the city.  Previously, our LOST and SPLOST splits were NEGOTIATED LOCALLY.   Now, they are giving us a formula based on road miles in the city/county and population in each.   The result will be on both LOST AND SPLOST rather than splitting 50/50 as we have for years, the STATE is telling us the motor fuel excise tax will be split 73/27.  The county will get 73% and the city will be reduced to 27%.   OUCH!

SO….   Not only are they reducing our monies, but they are TELLING US how to split the reduced amount they plan on giving us!

Based on 2014 figures, and assuming the county DOES implement the 6 cents, then the COUNTY will still lose $78,000, the school system will lose $131,000, and the city will lose $194,000 PER YEAR!    And this is AFTER the 6 cents excise tax which the county may or may not implement.   “Revenue Neutral huh?”.   The city will bear 48% of the reduction.   The school system will bear 33% and the county 19%.  To replace this money, the county could be forced to raise their millage by almost a half mill.   The school system could be forced to raise their millage by almost half a mill.  And the city (who is hit the hardest) could be faced with over a 2 mill increase.  (and we haven’t raised the millage since 1987).

THERE’S EVEN MORE!   With LOST, the revenues go into the general fund.  Your elected leaders can spend this money how they see fit (and answer to their local constituents).  With SPLOST and ESPLOST, while the money has to go to capital projects, your local officials decide (by voter referendum) the projects that our citizens need.   But with the coming changes, all the money from the motor fuel EXCISE tax MUST be spend on Transportation.   We will have no choice.  The State again TELLING us how to spend our money!

Hope is not yet lost.   The bill is still in committee.   The final has not been seen.  And then regardless of what the house comes up with, the State Senate will still have their input and revisions.    So ultimately it might be better.  It might be worse.   No one knows at this point.

My fear is that the final version won’t be significantly different that I have presented.   I encourage you to contact our local state representatives and tell them NOT to pass this bill in its current state.   Do we need more transportation dollars in Georgia?  Yes!   Do we need to collect those dollars by pulling them from the local economy?  No!

The alternatives are many.   They can leave our local 3 cents sales tax on gas and go on about their merry way.   Or they can convert the 3 cents to an excise tax but LET LOCAL ENTITIES decide how to spend and how to divide the money.   They can simply ADD to the state’s portion of the excise tax and fund the transportation needs.  But no, that would mean THEY would be seen as raising taxes rather than forcing us LOCALLY to raise taxes.

Representative Buddy Harden is Pulaski County’s legislature in the State House.   Senator Ross Tolleson is our Senator.   Please contact these gentlemen and tell them to fund the state needs from state coffers.   Not by pulling money away from our local governments.   Their contact information is below:

Buddy Harden
R-District 148
504-G Coverdell Legislative Office
Atlanta, Ga. 30334
404-656-0188
buddy.harden@house.ga.gov

Ross Tolleson
R-District 20
121-F State Capital
Atlanta, Ga. 30334
404-656-0081
ross.tolleson@senate.ga.gov

Please let me know your thoughts.  Reply to this post or email me at shelly@hawkinsvillega.net

I look forward to hearing from you!

Shelly Berryhill
Hawkinsville City Commission

 

Georgia Sales Tax Exemptions….


local sales tax distributions percent changeDuring the 2012 legislative session, the General Assembly approved sweeping tax reform in H.B. 386. The bill had overwhelming bipartisan support in both Houses, passing with a 54-0 vote in the Senate and 155-9 in the House. Originating from a larger set of recommendations unveiled in January 2011 by the Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness, the tax reform package included a number of provisions that impact our community. Among the provisions: a new motor vehicle title fee (TAVT) to replace the ad valorem tax on automobiles; elimination of the sales tax on automobile purchases; elimination of the sales tax imposed on energy used in manufacturing; and broadening of exemptions for the agriculture industry including energy, equipment, and business inputs such as seed, fertilizers, feed, etc. The reduction of sales tax revenues is no surprise as the state fiscal analysis of H.B. 386 prepared prior to passage of the bill projected that elimination of sales tax on automobiles and the included sales tax exemptions would cost local communities $199.6 million from 2013 to 2015; however, the fiscal analysis could not have predicted that these losses would be unevenly distributed across the state, a fact which is evident now that the exemptions have been in place for 19 months.
The approval of H.B. 386 followed years of study and recommendations aimed at comprehensive tax reform. In 2012, Georgia, like most other states, was just beginning to emerge from the “Great Recession” and state leaders were eager to find ways to help Georgia compete for jobs and encourage economic development. The intended purpose of the exemptions included in H.B. 386 was to support some of Georgia’s most critical industries, including agriculture and manufacturing. However, since the provisions of H.B. 386 have been in place, it has become evident that there are unintended consequences of the bill that are having a significant impact on local government revenues since the law
went into effect in 2013.
Overview
Sales taxes are a primary source of revenue for Hawkinsville to provide critical services that protect the health and safety of our residents and maintain a vibrant quality of life for all taxpayers. SPLOST and ESPLOST have been approved by voters throughout the state as a means of funding capital projects for local governments and school systems. Since 2001, approximately 95% of SPLOST referenda have been approved by the voters. Every sales tax exemption whittles away at local revenues, even as costs to provide services and demand for services increase. Exemptions that are put in place after
approval of a SPLOST, ESPLOST, or bond referenda erode the revenues available to complete capital projects and to pay off debt.

The Georgia Municipal Association has collected data on sales tax distributions to all of Georgia’s 159 counties and 538 cities during a 19-month period from February 2012 to September 2014. Sales tax distribution data was obtained from the Georgia Department of Revenue website, and includes distributions of LOST, SPLOST, ESPLOST, MOST (City of Atlanta), HOST and MARTA sales taxes.
The picture above illustrates the percent change in sales tax distributions immediately PRIOR to the enactment of the exemptions to the period following implementation of the exemptions.  Areas shaded in green have experienced increased distribution during these time frames; areas shaded in red have experienced decreased distributions.

Conclusions
As the maps indicate, a comparison of distributions from 2012 to 2013 (and beyond) shows:
– an immediate and disparate impact from region to region;
– as a direct result of the exemptions included in the 2012 tax reform package, areas of the state with a large agricultural industry base show a greater decline in sales tax revenues than areas with greater diversity of industry; and
– rural areas have seen greater reductions than urban and suburban counties in Georgia.

Pulaski County has seen sales tax reductions from -10% to -15% due to these changes in the law.  This effects our LOST (Local Option Sales Tax – which we split 50/50 with the County), and SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax – used to fund capital projects) and it also effects ESPLOST (Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax – which goes to our school system, not the city).  Hawkinsville is working hard to meet service demands, maintain infrastructure, and provide essential services, while cutting departmental budgets.

We need to take a hard look at what exemptions are WORKING to bring industry to our state and what exemptions are due to lobbying efforts by well-funded special interest groups!

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