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Hoschton revamping 90-year-old charter
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HOSCHTON — In less than a month, Hoschton’s existing city charter will turn 90 years old, a milestone that has influenced the City Council to revise the aging document.

A group, including Councilmen Jim Jester and Richard Green and Councilwoman Theresa Kenerly, was formed at the City Council’s July meeting to update the charter.

The group held its initial meeting last week, in which it first reviewed the existing 31-page charter and then discussed suggestions for updating it.

City Attorney Thomas Mitchell previously updated the document sometime last year, which Jester said has helped speed up the process.

"The lion’s share of amending the charter has been done," he said. "So it’s not like we have to go out and start from scratch."

Addressing the millage rate, residency requirements for mayor and council positions, council members’ term lengths, the City Council’s size, and the mayor’s right to vote on items are the top issues the group wants to discuss.

The millage rate, currently a hot button issue in Hoschton, is one area Jester wants to re-evaluate.

Right now, he said, Hoschton can levy a property tax "from 0 to infinity."

"I mean literally it can be anything without a public referendum," he said.

But Jester and Councilman Tom Walden suggested the city might want to research a choice other municipalities, such as Johns Creek, have adopted.

Johns Creek, located in Fulton County, has implemented a cap on its millage rate. If its City Council wants to increase the rate beyond this point, a referendum must be held, he said.

The Hoschton City Council recently voted against validating a petition circulated by several Hoschton residents to amend the city charter so that a vote would have to be held any time a change in the property tax, or millage rate, is proposed.

Residency requirements for a person wanting to run for City Council or the mayoral position was another charter issue discussed. Someone must live in the city for three months to be eligible to run for mayor and 12 months for council.

"I think 12 months is too long and three months is too short, personally," Walden said.

In addition, council members’ term lengths was another item the group wanted to re-evaluate. Council members currently serve four years, but Jester wants to explore whether Hoschton should return to two-year terms.

In addition, Jester wants to consider downsizing the City Council from six members to four.

Evaluating whether the mayor should be given the right to vote on issues was another issue Jester wants to discuss. Right now, the mayor does not vote unless there is a need to break a tie.

These five issues, as well as others, will be discussed in more detail at the group’s next meeting at 7 p.m. Aug. 10 at city hall.

Jester said he plans to present the final revised charter at the Sept. 14 city council meeting. Following several more steps, revisions and approvals, the document will be placed on the consent agenda of the Georgia General Assembly.

Both the original and revised charter are posted on Hoschton’s Web site, www.cityofhoschton.com.

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