Haralson County commissioners approved an energy excise tax for industries located in the county, reversing a previous stand against the levy on the grounds that such a tax would send an “anti-business message” to companies seeking to locate here.
The excise was the only item discussed at the brief special called meeting. It was passed unanimously by the three commissioners present. Commission Chairman Allen Poole declared a quorum since the other commissioners had the absent board members’ proxy.
Before the vote, Poole told those present that the 2 percent tax would be “in the best interest” of the county, and added that officials could minimize any negative impact the excise might have by offering an “abatement package” to new industries interested in moving here.
District 2 Commissioner Jamie Bennett also explained to the audience that the county had “no choice” but to approve the tax because the county’s cities had already agreed to their own local energy excise.
By passing the local excise, the county will act as the collection agent for the cities, distributing the revenues to each municipality based on their share of Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds. In addition, Bennett said, the county can collect an administrative fee for that service.
The county’s vote puts Haralson in line with several counties across the state, all of which have had to wrangle with the impact of a bill passed earlier this year by the General Assembly. That bill phases out over a four-year period a sales tax the state had assessed on energy used by industrial and agricultural applications.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and other officials had opposed the statewide excise for the same reason the local tax had initially been opposed by Haralson and other county officials: that it was a deterrent to new industry. But the looming absence of funds from the state’s distribution of its energy tax created a quandary for local leaders, who faced potential shortfalls in revenues.
Adding to the dilemma, Poole had said in previous meetings that no one could advise the local governments on how much revenue might be lost from the state distribution. Nevertheless, county governments had faced a Dec. 31 deadline on approving the tax.
The commission met in the absence of District 3 Commissioner Vance Posey and District 1 Commissioner Eric Robinson, both of whom are leaving their posts as the result of electoral defeats. Later Thursday night, John Dobbs was sworn in to replace Posey at a ceremony at the county courthouse, while Kenneth Smith was sworn in to fill Robinson’s post.
This was the last public commission meeting for both Eric Robinson and Vance Posey.