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Study set on proposed new city in south Forsyth
Findings from Georgia Tech likely out in late fall

SOUTH FORSYTH — Forsyth County and Georgia Tech have reaffirmed their partnership on a study looking at the potential financial impact of the proposed city of Sharon Springs.

A revised version of the contract, first approved last month, cleared the county commission in a 5-0 vote Tuesday. County Attorney Ken Jarrard said some wording was changed, but the agreements were essentially the same.

The study, which will not exceed $37,000, is expected to be completed by Nov. 30. It will be handled by Alfie Meek of the Enterprise Innovation Institute at Georgia Tech.

Jarrard has previously said the study would take into account the ramifications of a potential loss of 1-cent sales tax funding.

According to documents he provided, the study will look at both tax and non-tax revenues and expenses of the county. And if the city is projected to have a negative impact in those areas, the study will note what millage rate adjustments the county likely would need to make.

The study will be the second conducted recently to gauge the viability of the city, which would be the county’s second and encompass most of south Forsyth.

The Sharon Springs Alliance, a group that supports the new city, previously reported the findings of a study it hired the Carl Vinson Institute at the University of Georgia to perform.

That report examined nearby municipalities and found that “likely available revenues exceed likely expenditures for the services identified to be provided, and therefore conclude that a city comprised of the Sharon Springs study area is fiscally feasible.”

Opponents of Sharon Springs have been skeptical of the first study, which was funded entirely by supporters, noting that such efforts rarely, if ever, find that such a city isn’t viable.

Those in favor of Sharon Springs contend the area has been misrepresented in terms of zoning, which is among the driving factors in the cityhood movement.

The proposed city would cover an area in south Forsyth stretching from the Fulton County line to Hwy. 20 with an eastern border of the Chattahoochee River and the western border of Ga. 400. The new city would have about 50,000 residents.

As presented, the municipality would be considered a “city light,” a designation for those such as Peachtree Corners in neighboring Gwinnett County, which offer limited services. Sharon Springs likely would offer only sanitation, zoning and code enforcement.

It would not impose property taxes or use or create a new sales tax. Supporters have said the system of governance would be covered in the city’s charter.

Since it would not be using property or sales taxes, the largest sources of revenue likely would come from franchise fees — cable TV, electric, natural gas and phone lines — as well as insurance premiums and development fund and zoning and variance fees and permits.

The city would also gain revenue from occupation and hotel/motel taxes and alcohol licenses and taxes, among other sources.

In March, District 25 state Rep. Mike Dudgeon introduced a bill to the Georgia General Assembly to initiate the process of creating the city.

The bill cannot be approved until the 2016 legislative session, which starts in January. If it clears the General Assembly, a referendum on the city could be held later that year.

Only those living within the proposed city limits — an estimated quarter of the county’s population — would be eligible to vote. If the measure were to pass at the polls, the city could begin operating by 2017.