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Hoschton residents want say in property tax changes

POSTED: April 24, 2009 11:13 p.m.

HOSCHTON — Hoschton resident Kelley Gary wants his neighbors to have a voice when it comes to the possibility of Hoschton having a property tax.

Within a couple of weeks, Gary said he and several other residents plan to distribute a petition for residents who want to have a voice in the issue.

During its 2009 budget talks, the Hoschton City Council discussed implementing a property tax, but instead balanced the budget. If a tax had been instituted, it would have been the city’s first in 30 years.

Gary said he wants to ensure people have a voice if the issue arises again this year.

"If a property tax is included in the proposed 2010 budget, I am hopeful that the city will schedule a referendum on the matter," he said via e-mail.

"However, if the city council does not schedule a referendum, we the citizens are committed to revising the city charter to require a referendum on any property tax increase."

The group needs signatures from 25 percent of the registered voting population in Hoschton before a referendum can be held on whether the city’s charter should be changed.

The charter must be amended to allow Hoschton to hold a vote on any change in the millage rate, according to city attorney Thomas Mitchell.

During the City Council’s April 2 work session, Gary asked whether Hoschton would consider holding a vote any time a change in the millage rate was proposed.

Mitchell informed him that Hoschton must change its city charter to do this. This, he explained, would require approval from the Georgia General Assembly, which already ended its 2009 legislative session.

Mitchell said while nothing would prevent the city from holding a straw vote concerning the millage rate, he has advised the city against doing so.

"There are a couple of attorney generals’ opinions that unless the statute specifically authorized the referendum vote, it’s not an appropriate use of city resources," he said. "There’s no case that says you can’t do it, it’s just a couple of attorney generals’ opinions that are based on cases on other issues."

Councilwoman Theresa Kenerly and Councilman Tom Walden both said at the meeting that they would not go against what the city’s attorney advised.

No property tax for Hoschton has been proposed, and Walden said any discussions concerning a millage rate increase will be held when the fiscal resources committee begins reviewing the 2010 budget in May.



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