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Gas tax plan for transportation upsets local officials
Government leaders decry loss of money for general fund
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Area government officials are up in arms over the state’s proposed transportation bill, which calls for shifting all sales taxes at gas pumps to state coffers, ending the share that local governments, including schools, would get.

Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan said Thursday that Hall County governments, as a whole, could lose $10.5 million to $11 million annually if the bill, as now proposed, passes.

The impact on the city would be $1.2 million to $1.5 million per year, he said.

“We usually budget $1.5 million on road paving, so (those) projects — unless we raise taxes — will absolutely have to stop,” Dunagan said.

Scott Gibbs, North Hall representative on the Hall County Board of Commissioners, estimated the county’s loss at $9 million, or nearly 10 percent of its $90 million budget.

The bill, which was announced Wednesday, allows local governments to charge an additional excise tax of up to 6 cents per gallon — up to 3 cents for counties and up to 3 cents for cities — to be used on local transportation projects. County commissions and city councils would have to approve the tax.

“That sounds good, but the only way I have to fill that ($9 million) void in the general fund is with a property tax,” Gibbs said.

“So, once again, the property owners are going to foot the bill,” he said.

Dunagan also blasted the excise tax.

Lawmakers “can tout their horn all they want to … (but) they’re just passing the buck, and it’s not fair,” he said.

Amy Henderson, Georgia Municipal Association spokeswoman, said the bill, which is being pushed by state Rep. Jay Roberts, R-Ocilla, has created a buzz among the group’s members.

“While we recognize the need for greater transportation funding, there is great concern that the money is being taken from local governments’ local option sales taxes,” she said.

Special purpose local option sales tax funds can help pay for transportation, but they also are used to pay for other capital projects, such as libraries and parks, she said.

So, governments “won’t be able to make up that lost revenue without raising property taxes,” Henderson said.

The same is true for education, which has its own 1-cent SPLOST to help with school construction and technology.

“I am certain there will be a great deal of negotiation and change prior to any final transportation bill vote,” Hall schools Superintendent Will Schofield said. “I have spoken to two members of our delegation (Thursday) morning and will remain in contact with them throughout the process.

“Until we see the final version with hold-harmless provisions and other modifications, it is impossible to know what the final impact would be.”

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