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Mayor reflects on planning retreat issues
Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas believes changes in tax collections and next week's T-SPLOST referendum are the most important issues facing the city. - photo by File photo

Hinesville leaders prioritized, discussed and made plans last week to deal with 38 economic, administrative, ordinance-related or construction project issues during their annual planning workshop at Jekyll Island.
Two items Mayor Jim Thomas considered most important were next week’s TSPLOST referendum and a new title-tax fee established by the Georgia Legislature earlier this year that takes effect March 1, 2013.
“I think TSPLOST is critical to Liberty County and Coastal Georgia, because if we don’t get better roads, it will hamper our quality of life and municipal growth,” Thomas said as he talked about some of the projects 25 percent of TSPLOST funds could pay for if the referendum passes. “And I think improvements along Main Street all the way down to Shaw Road are most important, especially the intersection of Main Street and Veterans Parkway. That intersection is simply not large enough to handle the amount of traffic it gets during peak periods.”
Thomas described those peak periods as 6-8 a.m., 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. and 4:30-6 p.m.
During the workshop, proposals for improvement along Main Street ranged from simple road repair to widening the street to four lanes. Councilman David Anderson said road construction priority should be safety-related. Thomas agreed and reiterated the intersection of Main Street and Veterans Parkway has become a dangerous intersection due to growing development. Paul Simonton of P.C. Simonton & Associates noted that while the city was installing storm drains at that intersection, he saw what he described as a “congestive problem.”
City leaders proposed further study on road construction along Main Street with priorities based on public safety.
According to information provided by the state, the new title-tax fee eventually will eliminate the sales tax and ad valorem tax on automobiles. The one-time tax will be 6.5 percent in 2013, 6.75 percent in 2014 and 7 percent in 2015. The tax supposedly will capture revenue from the casual sale of a new or used automobile. State and local governments will split the tax revenue.
In 2013, the local government will get 43 percent of the revenue. In 2013, it gets 45 percent. By 2022 and each subsequent year, local government would get 72 percent.
However, as the number of new cars increase each year, the amount of local ad valorem tax revenue would decrease.
“I really think two or three years from now, we’re going to see an impact,” Thomas said. “We think there’s going to be a shortfall (in total revenue) when the number of new cars increase and ad valorem taxes decrease.”
Mike Reed, owner of Mike Reed Chevrolet, sees the possibility of increased revenue through the new title tax.
“For years, the government has been collecting nothing on the sale of most pre-owned vehicles,” said Reed, calling the title tax a registration fee. “As with the sales tax, this fee can be financed with the total cost of a new vehicle.
“However, most vehicles sales are bought through private purchases. Now the book value of that vehicle will be assessed (for the title tax).”
Reed explained the title tax fee for a new $25,000 car would be $1,625 in 2013. He also pointed out that people buying new cars up to March 1 have the option to go with the new title tax or stay with the higher 7 percent total sales tax plus ad valorem tax.
Becky Fowler, Long County tax commissioner, confirmed that prior to the new tax, sales tax was not collected on private sales of automobiles. According to the state information, family members supposedly will be allowed to transfer automobile titles to one another without triggering the title tax.
Current automobile owners will continue to pay the ad valorem tax until the vehicle is retitled.

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