SOUTH FORSYTH — Businesses in extreme south Forsyth near the Fulton County line may soon be able to levy taxes on themselves to help with infrastructure improvements.
During a work session Tuesday afternoon, the Forsyth County commission voted 5-0 to approve a resolution that — if enough businesses in the area support through a balloting process — will lead to the creation of Community Improvement District.
The proposed district, which would generate a specialized tax from businesses in the district, has been in the works for some time.
Forsyth’s delegation approved the required state legislation for the measure in February after representatives of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce had been approached by many business owners in the area.
James McCoy, president and CEO of the chamber, and Tim Chason, former vice president of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce who has been hired by the local chamber to work on the CID project, both addressed commissioners Tuesday.
“Really this process began several years ago when we were approached by a number of commercial property owners in the south part of Forsyth County along McFarland Road to discuss … some of their infrastructure needs,” McCoy said. “We realized the funding mechanisms were extremely limited both from a local and state level.
“What we saw happening around the state was communities increasingly turning to Community Improvement Districts as a mechanism to fund infrastructure projects that are of interest to a particular part of the community.”
Chason told commissioners that CIDs were first authorized by the Georgia General Assembly in 1984.
The districts apply only to commercial properties. Those that are zoned residential, agricultural or forestry cannot be taxed in a CID.
Now that the commission has approved the resolution to move forward in creating the local district, Chason said he and other chamber leaders would distribute ballots to all commercial property owners in the proposed district.
“There are two ways the vote goes,” Chason said. “First of all, we have to have 50 percent plus one vote of the property used for nonresidential … then you have to have 75 percent equity value.
“You cannot just have one or the other, you have to have both. This protects both the small business owner and the large business owner, and this is very important to those who wrote the law.”
According to a timeline shown to the commissioners, ballots will be distributed and collected until October to secure the required voting percentages.
The ballots will then be presented to the Forsyth County tax commissioner for certification sometime in October.
If enough “yes” votes are secured, an election for a CID board would be held in January.
Under the legislation, the board would consist of three members selected by the majority of property owners, three from the majority of equity holders and one will be appointed by the county commission.
According to Chason, several business owners have asked if they would see a tax bill from the board in 2014. The answer is no.
“If the CID board approves a tax, it will be in 2015,” he said, noting that the tax impact will be limited to a maximum of 5 mills.
Chason also said the district would have a 10-year limit, which is unusual for most created in Georgia.
At the end of that 10 years, the board would have to secure the 50 percent-plus-one and the 75 percent equity vote again.
“So this is not a government section that will be created forever,” he said. “It is based on those paying the tax. They decide if they want to continue this.”