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Flowery Branch tax bill won't include streetlight charge
City still debating issue
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Flowery Branch property tax bills will go out this week without long-debated streetlight charges.

City officials have been discussing for months how and whether to tax residents to cover the city’s costs for streetlights, with the particular concern that the city has subsidized the utility for some residents but not for others.

City Council gave its first OK to the charges in September but balked on final approval during a vote last week. The council voted 3-2 to postpone the matter to Nov. 3, with members Chris Fetterman and Amanda Swafford in opposition and members Tara Richards and Joe Anglin and Mayor Mike Miller in favor.

When city officials asked whether to send out bills by Nov. 1, as had been planned, Fetterman said, “I say send them out. We may go another month, two months (on the issue). Who knows?”

The issue first surfaced publicly last year, when Madison Creek subdivision residents complained to the council that they were paying a high rate to Georgia Power for lights while the city was covering the costs for others.

The city and Madison Creek reached an agreement in February, with Flowery Branch paying Georgia Power a lower government rate for the neighborhood’s streetlights and getting reimbursed by the subdivision’s homeowners association.

The city’s 2011-2012 budget covers streetlight costs through October, leaving open how to continue funding them the rest of the fiscal year. Flowery Branch spends nearly $36,000 a year on streetlights.

Proposals have varied from splitting costs among property owners throughout the city to charging residents based on the number and type of streetlights in the area where they live.

City officials seemed to settle on at least establishing streetlight assessment districts for Madison Creek and the two subdivisions where lights are covered by the city, Newberry Point and Portsmouth. The sticking point was whether to create a “general district for the entire city.”

The proposed charges ranged from $29 to $39 for the subdivision residents and a $9 assessment plus $1 administrative charge for all property owners.

The city is sending out 2,674 real property and 171 personal inventory tax bills this week, said Maria Arevalo, Flowery Branch’s accounts receivable clerk. Bills are due Dec. 31. The total cost to send them is $1,806.21. The cost for sending additional tax bills, if needed, is unknown.

“I can’t really say it will be the same cost because it depends on what is decided (by the council) — if only certain subdivisions will be billed or all parcels,” Arevalo said.

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