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City, county accept sales tax agreement

POSTED: September 24, 2012 2:29 p.m.

The Liberty County Board of Commissioners and the Hinesville City Council on Thursday approved a local option sales tax distribution agreement that will require the county to seek greater reimbursement from other municipalities for the services it delivers.
Due to population shares, the two entities are the only ones required to sign the agreement even though it will affect distributions to Walthourville, Midway, Riceboro and Flemington. The new distribution plan takes effect Jan. 1.
Allenhurst and Gum Branch do not meet the service-delivery requirements to qualify for LOST revenue.
Under the agreement, Hinesville ceded 1.88 percent of its current LOST revenue, and Walthourville ceded .61 percent — but had population been the sole factor in determining the shares, Hinesville would have gained about 3 percent, and Liberty County would have lost about 5 percent.  
Qualifying cities are entitled to a minimum distribution based on their population proportion relative to the share of all cities, but their distribution also can be factored using eight criteria.
Consultant Phil Sutton of Sutton Consulting LLC helped the group establish the distributions by factoring: daytime population; residential population; general-fund expenses; transition period provided in proposed distribution; sales, shipments and receipts and commercial property tax digest; intergovernmental agreements; the county annual financial report; and combined property-tax and LOST revenue.

Council seeks reduced county millage for Hinesville residents

During the 3 p.m. meeting, Hinesville City Manager Billy Edwards said the city would request that the county reduce its millage rate for Hinesville residents to eliminate double-taxation for duplicated services.
Though the city would not directly benefit from the change, Hinesville residents would, Edwards said.
Duplicated services include road maintenance, mosquito control and operations support for the MidCoast Regional Airport — services that the county does not provide within Hinesville limits and for which Hinesville residents pay city taxes.
“This agreement would not be binding on future negotiations,” Edwards said. “Also, if we annex other areas, we will not use that as a trigger for re-negotiations.”
The council unanimously approved the agreement with the following provisions:
1. That the methodologies used in the current agreement do not bind either body to use the same terms and conditions for any future distribution agreements.
2. That future Hinesville annexations will not trigger a recalculation or change in the distribution percentages.
3. That the county will seek to recover 100 percent reimbursement for any services performed in other municipalities, and in the absence of such recovery will decrease the county tax rate for the incorporated area of Hinesville in an amount equivalent to those unrecovered expenses.
4. That the county agrees to decrease the county tax rate for the incorporated area of Hinesville in an amount equal to expenses related to those services deemed to be duplicative in nature between two entities.
5. That both entities agree that distribution percentages identified shall be used in determining funding obligations of each entity for the provision of various joint services when LOST distribution allocations are determined to be the preferred criteria for such funding.

Liberty County BoC agrees to Hinesville’s terms

The board of commissioners met after city council approved the terms.
“Basically, if you agree tonight, it’s a done deal,” County Administrator Joey Brown told the commission during its 5 p.m. meeting.
Brown reminded the BoC that a legislative change prompted the county to identify duplicated services, determine their cost and remove them from the county millage rate established for Hinesville residents.
“We haven’t been able to achieve 100 percent of those costs rolled back because of the economy, and the city knew that,” Brown said. “I think we started off the first year, we rolled back 30 percent of the way; the next year we did it, we rolled back 50 percent of the way; and the last year we did it, we did about 69-70 percent of the way, so we’re not far. In fact, last year we were only about $143,000 away.”
The county’s property-tax-revenue collections from Hinesville will decrease, but Brown said the county does not anticipate raising the millage rate for unincorporated Liberty County in the coming year because LOST revenues can offset the change.
Hinesville also requested that the county attempt to recover from other municipalities 100 percent of the cost of mosquito control, animal control and road maintenance.
“That’s something that you all have talked about in the past,” Brown told the commission. “We bill those cities about $1,200 a year for those services … it costs greatly more than that, and that’s something we’ve talked about sitting down and negotiating anyway.”
The agreement does not preclude the county from seeking Hinesville contributions for recreation and 911 services funding, Brown added.
The BoC approved the agreement with District 4 Commissioner Pat Bowen opposed.

Randy C. Murray contributed to this report.

 

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