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Local officials oppose transfer of local sales taxes to fund state transportation needs

A recent poll indicates less than one in five Georgians supports the proposed Georgia transportation funding legislation recently introduced in the legislature and you can add all members of the Cairo City Council and the Grady County Board of Education to that number.
Both bodies this week unanimously adopted resolutions in opposition to the reallocation of local sales tax funding from local governments to the state.
House Bill 170 calls for the investment of $1 billion annually by the state for transportation projects and infrastructure.
Based on the proposed legislation, nearly half of that would come out of local sales taxes collected on the sale of motor fuel, which means less money for cities, counties and public school systems.
Data from the Georgia Department of Revenue and provided by the Georgia Municipal Association indicates that from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014 there was $1,590,306.19 in sales taxes collected on motor fuel sales in Grady County.
Of that total, the city of Cairo received approximately $407,118 in Local Option Sales Taxes and Special Purpose Local Option Sales Taxes, which would be eliminated under the proposed legislation.
House Bill 170 would exempt the sales tax on motor fuel sales and impose a 29.2 cent sate excise tax.
According to Grady County School System Finance Officer Dan Broome, the local school system would have lost approximately $530,000 in ESPLOST collections between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014 under the current proposed legislation.
“This equates to about one mill of ad valorem tax. It would be like going from 14.2 mills to 15.2 mills just to make up the loss in current revenue. I doubt any of our citizens are calling our representatives or senators, but I’m sure that they will call us if we propose raising the millage rate by a mill,” Superintendent Lee M. Bailey said this week.
Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton said the loss in SPLOST revenue would result in two miles of street resurfacing being cut and the loss in the collection of the LOST would be equivalent to half of the entire street and sidewalk budget.
“We’re already using these sales taxes for resurfacing streets, stormwater improvements, and sidewalks. If we don’t get this money I don’t know where we will get the funds to do these things,” Addleton said.
Legislators are continuing to modify the bill and it has not made it to the Senate.
When contacted by The Messenger Tuesday, Representative Darlene Taylor said she was not ready to commit her support for the bill.
“I have local government concerns that need to be addressed. As the bill continues to be reviewed I will continue to work with other legislators to look for the best solution to this difficult and diverse, but important problem,” Representative Taylor said.
Senator Dean Burke also reserved judgment on the bill Tuesday.
“I’m observing the work being done in the House on the issue. I will reserve my opinion on support until the changes that are occurring the House crystallize. It seems to be different every day,” Senator Burke said.
He added, “I will be following the issue closely and will be glad to discuss it further when or if we get the bill in the Senate.”

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