City taxpayers pay more than $450,000 over their fair share for services that are funded jointly by city and county taxpayers, according to Michael Brown of Brown Pelican Consulting Inc.
The phenomenon is often referred to as double taxation, and 20 years ago, the state of Georgia introduced new legislation to eliminate it.
In 2017, the city of Metter and Candler County (like other cities and counties statewide) are required by law to re-visit their Service Delivery Strategy to ensure that all taxpayers county-wide are paying an equitable portion for services.
The purpose of the Service Delivery Strategy (from House Bill 489 passed in 1997) is to prevent taxpayers who live in cities from paying an unfair portion of taxes for county-wide services.
This occurs when municipalities and county governments jointly fund services – the city property owner pays a portion of that service through his county taxes and a portion through his city taxes, while the unincorporated property owner pays for that same service just one time through county taxes.
Because both city and county pay for that same service, the city taxpayer’s county taxes go to fund a service that is primarily for the unincorporated areas of the county.
In his presentation to City Council on Monday, Brown contends that the city is paying more than its fair share in a number of service areas. He is basing his argument on the break-down of the county’s population, with 34.081 percent of county property taxes being paid by city property owners.
Basing his figures on that 34 percent, Brown said that there is a funding inequity for city property owners in regards to funding of Metter Municipal Airport ($7,603); animal control ($8,520); fire protection ($43,150); the library ($13,839); the recreation department ($32,015); road and street maintenance ($345,344); and solid waste ($12,570).
Likewise for general administration, Brown said that city property owners pay for city-wide administrative services, while county administrative services are primarily for unincorporated areas and should not be funded by city property owners. The same is true for economic development funding, he said.
E-911 funding is different, Brown said, because the county obtains E-911 services through a regional system. The city pays $40,000 of the funding of that service, he said. At the same time, Brown said, the county has accumulated over $400,000 in the E-911 fund balance (which has accumulated from the $1.50 per line charge assessed on all cell phones in the county).
His suggestion is for the county to fund E-911 services with those E-911 fees. Any additional costs, he said, should come from county-wide property taxes.
To eliminate inequities, Brown said, the county should either establish a special service district for unincorporated areas for those services that are jointly funded or should assume county-wide funding of those services with no city contribution.
County Commission Chair Glyn Thrift and Commissioner Brad Jones were at Monday’s city council meeting to hear Brown’s presentation.
The county is also reviewing the Service Delivery Strategy and has not yet presented its own findings in the 2017 review process.