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No date set for election
County officials will hear first from public
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Forsyth County News

What’s next

The town hall meeting on the proposed 1-cent sales tax extension is set for 4:30 p.m. July 21 at the county administration building.

 

Other business

Also at Tuesday’s work session, Forsyth County commissioners:

• Approved a request for $12,500 to partially fund an additional full-time prosecutor for the District Attorney’s Office for September through year’s end. The position has been included in the preliminary 2012 budget.

• Set the 2012 millage rate at 7.656 mills, which is the same overall rate as in 2011.

• Reappointed Terry Smith as the elected officials’ representative to the Forsyth County Civil Service Board for a four-year term. Commissioners voted 4-1 to approve the nomination, with Jim Boff opposed.

• Reappointed Douglas E. Sorrells as the Forsyth County Republican Party’s representative on the local elections board for a four-year term.

• Agreed to hold a public hearing on the annual impact fee update Aug. 4.

• Ended the procedure allowing for county-initiated expedited rezoning to agriculture.

Note: All votes were 5-0 unless otherwise noted.

 

-- Alyssa LaRenzie

Forsyth County has sent its 1-cent sales tax proposal across the street to Cumming City Hall, though not yet for approval.

Officials are working toward a November referendum to extend the special purpose local option sales tax, or SPLOST.

They hope to reach an agreement with the city on the revenue distribution and projects and set the election at their meeting next week.

Immediately before that July 21 session, they plan to hold a town hall meeting on the proposed tax extension, which would fund construction of a new courthouse and jail expansion, among other projects.

Tuesday, the commission was expected to lock in on the referendum date, but decided to hold off until hearing from the public.

Until that time, the county’s bond attorney, Roger Murray, recommended officials give the city a chance to review what’s being proposed.

"I do think we ought to get the agreement over to the city to say, ‘We haven’t had our hearing yet, and this isn’t final approval, but here’s something to chew on,’" Murray said.

To meet the timeline for a November election, the county and city likely will need to approve an agreement on July 21.

As it stands, the proposal states that of the nearly $200 million in revenue the six-year tax program could collect, the first $100 million would go toward the new courthouse and jail expansion projects.

The next $1 million would fund an emergency water generator.

Tax collections after that would be split, with the county receiving 87.5 percent and Cumming 12.5 percent of the money.

If the two governments agree on the split, the sales tax can be collected for a sixth year.

The current sales tax does not expire until June 2013. A continuation, if approved by voters, would take that to June 2019.

The project list has been set by commissioners, who voted Tuesday to add a disclaimer.

The disclaimer, which was recommended by the county attorney, states the commission "intends to finance projects set forth within these general categories."

The fine print also states that the order of projects will be determined by commissioners, the sales tax collections may not meet predictions and that specific projects listed are "illustrative of the types of projects that may be financed."

The disclaimer spells out what commissioners are legally bound to if the tax is approved, Murray said.

General projects could be changed only by commission approval, but a very detailed list would limit those possibilities if unforeseen circumstances arose, he said.

"You have to balance it. One the one hand, you don’t want to sucker the voters in and say ‘These are the projects we’re definitely doing," Murray said.

"On the flip side, you can’t have a crystal ball and you can’t know exactly what’s going to happen."

Commissioners voted 3-2 on Tuesday to include the disclaimer, with Patrick Bell and Jim Boff opposed.

Bell said if people vote for a project list, those approved projects should be tackled as long as the money comes in, without local government ability to determine specifics later.

"Do you believe the government has that kind of credibility with citizens, or do they believe politics will get involved?" he said.

Boff agreed that the language could mislead voters, offering up a relevant saying.

"The large print giveth, and the fine print taketh away," he said.

Chairman Brian Tam said the project list is generally shown on the ballot and that the commission needs the ability to have some wiggle room in case of unforeseen circumstances.

"We need to be able to step away from projects if they’re not feasible," Tam said.

The approved project list also includes an animal shelter, library expansion, park improvements, new fire trucks and transportation projects.

The city’s wish list of projects, which totals about $33.6 million, consists of a number of road projects and renovations to City Park.