“A lot of what you do in the legislature affects us; in the services we provide, in the way we get our money,” City Manager John Bennett said. “And sometimes there are unintended consequences to what you do.”
State Reps. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, and Barbara Massey Reece, D-Menlo, attended the session along with two Georgia Municipal Association staffers, then the group toured city facilities on the Toonerville Trolley. State Rep. Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville, is on Georgia National Guard duty and state Sen.-elect Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, also was absent because of work obligations.
“We have a better idea here who’s paying and who’s not paying, plus we’d get a more accurate remission,” Mayor Evie McNiece said.
The Commission also supports a sales tax on Internet sales, she said, because tax-free sellers are unfair competition for local merchants.
The House passed a bill this year that would halt collections if the money isn’t used for its intended purpose, but it did not pass the Senate by the end of the session. Dempsey said she expects it to be resubmitted in 2013.
Reece, who serves on the House State Institutions and Properties Committee, said there is some outside interest, although the North Division Street property is large and the 74 buildings are all on the same utilities circuit.
Commissioners asked that they be involved in any state decision from the start.
Lost money from the car tags will supposedly be made up by a new tax on person-to-person car sales but Commissioner Jamie Doss said local officials across the state are concerned that the revenue projections won’t hold up over time.
“It’s OK on the front end, but it’s unknown on the back end,” he said.
The energy sales tax is another unknown. Bennett said Georgia Power Co. estimates its manufacturing customers pay about $560,000 a year in local sales taxes, but other sources of power also will be exempt.
“We have no way to make that up elsewhere,” Commissioner Buzz Wachsteter noted.
Counties and cities have the option of levying an excise tax of up to 2 percent to reclaim that money, but McNiece said it’s a tough decision many have not yet made.
“The (tax elimination) was implemented to attract new business and industries, but you can’t do that if you have to cut services,” McNiece said. “A lot of people are saying they won’t (levy a local tax), but I think they would if some come forward who realize the implications of how much money they will be losing.”
No changes are expected on those two pieces of legislation, which will take effect next year, but city officials used them as examples of how actions in Atlanta could have unintended consequences in the districts.
“Please be careful next year. We can’t afford any more help,” Commissioner Kim Canada said with a smile.