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Doh … Typo in bill means vote on sales tax for roads is unlikely this year

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Doh … Typo in bill means vote on sales tax for roads is unlikely this year

DeKalb County Georgia. Source: Google Maps.
DeKalb County Georgia. Source: Google Maps.

DeKalb County Georgia. Source: Google Maps.

It always helps to read the fine print, particularly when it comes to legislation.

That could’ve saved everyone in DeKalb County some time instead of spending it on input sessions and special called meetings to get ready for a proposed Nov. 8 vote on a sales tax for infrastructure projects, like roads. The penny sales tax vote, which would’ve provided millions for these projects, was also tied to a penny sales tax to fund a property tax break for homeowners.

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As it turns out, the wording of House Bill 596, intended to modify the time limit on the county’s homestead valuation freeze, means that if voters approve both penny sales taxes, the freeze would end and property taxes will go up. The bill says if taxpayers approve the proposed Equalized Homestead Option Sales tax, the homestead valuation freeze will be “tolled.” According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the bill should have said “extended.”

A letter from Rick Ruskell, Deputy Legislative Counsel at Georgia General Assembly, to state Sen. Fran Millar confirms this interpretation of the bill.

HB 596 serves to suspend the homestead valuation freeze currently in effect in DeKalb County if the new [EHOST] and a [Special Purpose Local Option Sale Tax] SPLOST are approved in the November election,” the letter says.

County Commissioner Nancy Jester wrote on her blog that approval of these measures could have severe consequences for county taxpayers.

“That means that 10 years of increases in your property value, which have been shielded from county and city taxes, will instantly become taxable,” she wrote. “You will be providing the county and cities with a sales tax and property tax windfall.” She said in light of new information, putting these measures on the ballot would be, “irresponsible.”

The County Commission meets July 19 and was set to consider approving putting both the EHOST and penny sales tax for infrastructure projects on the ballot in November. The AJC reports that this new development makes it less likely commissioners will vote to put these proposals on the ballot.

The Decatur City Commission held a special called meeting on July 14 to approve its project list so it would be ready by the County Commission’s July 19 meeting. The city had planned to use SPLOST money to fix the intersection of West Howard Avenue and Atlanta Avenue.

The SPLOST and EHOST were intended to address a problem caused by the creation of new cities in DeKalb County. For a more detailed explanation, click here.

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