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Hoschton voters want a say in whether city levies property tax
Group gets 417 signatures on a petition requesting a vote on changing citys charter
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HOSCHTON — A petition urging the city of Hoschton to hold a vote to change its charter was submitted Monday to city hall, bearing 417 signatures.

The petition was circulated by several residents to garner enough support so that Hoschton will have to hold an election on whether its charter should be amended so that any time a change in the property tax, or millage rate, is proposed, it must be placed on the ballot.

Hoschton’s millage rate is currently set at 0 mills, and the city has not had a property tax in 30 years. During budget talks last year, the Hoschton City Council discussed implementing a tax, but balanced the budget instead. On Dec. 8, the City Council voted 5-1 to adopt the $722,360 budget for 2009, which represents about a $130,000 decrease from the 2008 budget of $852,491. The water and sewer budget balanced at $918,579, a reduction of about $161,000 from the 2008 budget of more than $1 million.

It was these budget discussions that inspired Hoschton resident Kelley Gary to announce in April his intentions to circulate a petition to change the charter.

Gary said Monday that he was pleased with the response he and other volunteers received from residents.

“I thought that it would be pretty well received,” he said of the petition. “But, no, I didn’t think we’d get 417 signatures in the time that we had.”

Gary and nine other volunteers began seeking signatures on May 12. By Sunday, the group had secured 417. This was accomplished in less than 60 days, which he said is the time limit the law provides.

The petition received more than two times the required number of signatures. Gary said 25 percent of Hoschton’s registered voting population — 171 people out of 681 — were needed in order for a referendum to be requested and received.

Now that the petition has been submitted, a couple of validations must occur, according to City Attorney Thomas Mitchell.

First, Brenda Fulcher, Jackson County’s supervisor of voter registration, must verify that each person who signed the petition still lives within the city limits and is a registered voter, he said.

Then, the Hoschton City Council must decide whether or not to validate the petition.

“If for whatever reason it is not validated, council has to publish its reasons in the newspaper,” Mitchell said. “If they do validate it, then they have to make a call for an election on the referendum within seven days.”

Both of these certifications, Mitchell said, must occur within 50 days.

If validated, the election could be held on either Sept. 15 or Nov. 3, depending on when the required validations are completed, he said. Both days are special or general election dates established by the state.

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