In the wake of another 1% special purpose local option sales tax proposal from Carroll County — one that includes an insignificant distribution for the city of Bremen — city officials could hike the tax rates for Carroll County residents or deannex those properties.
At their meeting on Monday, Bremen Council members heard that Carroll County proposes to again split the SPLOST proceeds by population. The Carroll County portion of Bremen, including the Interstate 20 exit and a portion of U.S. 27, is mainly commercial, with some 50 businesses populating the area — and that number continues to grow. As a consequence, the area has about 45 residents, representing about .04% of the population of Carroll County.
So although over six years, the city estimates that Bremen businesses currently pump about $4.2 million into Carroll County’s sales tax revenue. Bremen is expected to receive about $47,600, or less than $8,000 a year in SPLOST proceeds over that time period.
City Manager Perry Hicks said that by comparison, the city would have received about $3 million from the proposed Carroll County Transportation SPLOST, because it was based on road work expenses and not population. The T-SPLOST referendum was not approved by Carroll County voters.
SPLOST proceeds are used for capital projects including paving, construction, and maintenance of city facilities and capital purchases, including police and fire equipment.
The council members discussed sending a letter to Carroll County Chairwoman Michelle Morgan outlining the issue. But their attorney, Sam Price, said he didn’t think that would help.
He said he has already brought the matter to the county’s attention with a lengthy explanation. The response, he said, was one sentence: “Thanks for your thoughts.”
The city had a seat at the table during negotiations of the split to lay out their case but received a proverbial pat on the head.
“They’ve never been willing to deal with this other than by population,” said Mayor Sharon Sewell.
What needs to happen, Price said, is that the taxpayers in that part of town “who are presently getting shafted” need to contact Morgan and their commissioner about the problem. But the council members didn’t think that would happen unless those property owners felt the problem in their pocketbook.
“Tax the bejeezus out of ‘em, ” said a frustrated Councilman Dobson Harris after learning that another business, Tractor Supply, had opted to settle closer to the Interstate in Carroll County rather than in a Haralson County location of the city and that a truck stop had decided to build across I-20 from Love’s at the Waco Exit in Bremen.
The businesses are choosing that location near the interstate and reaping the benefits of the hundreds of thousands of cars, trucks, and semis that visit there, he said. But the city, which by law must allocate revenue collected in Carroll County to serve Carroll County properties and revenue collected in Haralson County to serve Haralson County properties, is stuck with infrastructure needs in Carroll County that it is having a hard time filling with the current revenue.
And, while the Council is considering a moratorium on residential construction throughout the city to allow infrastructure development to catch up to demand, businesses keep pushing to develop in an underfunded part of the city, Harris said.
Councilwoman Salli Thomason said she thought the council needed to say in any letter to the Carroll County Commission what they plan to do.
The city has a couple of options, City Manager Perry Hicks told the council members. They could raise the Carroll County millage rate or they could deannex the properties, making them part of unincorporated Carroll County.
Deannexation would mean the city would lose some tax dollars, but it would also not be responsible for the infrastructure and services for the area anymore, he said. Carroll County would have to take over that responsibility.
Councilman Jai Otwell said he would not be in favor of deannexing all those properties. He would prefer to increase their taxes to cover the expense of providing services to them.
Harris urged the council members to make a decision.
“I don’t want to us to keep getting the short end of the stick with Carroll County,” Harris said. “It’s over with. It should have been over with six years ago.”
After the meeting, Hicks said that if the businesses wanted to annex into Haralson County as part of the city, it would take approval from both Carroll County and Haralson County commissions and grand juries, something he didn’t think was likely.
“Theoretically, could the city limit of Bremen be the county line? Yes, that could be the Carroll County line,” he said.
The city could be absorbed into Carroll County or brought fully into Haralson County, but neither of them would want to give up the businesses in their county that are within the city limits. But either scenario might be better for the city as far as sales tax revenue is concerned, Hicks said. If the city were fully in Carroll County it would be the third-largest city in the county, he said. If it were fully in Haralson County, it would take a much bigger share of the sales tax revenue from what is now Carroll-County Bremen.
“But I hate to say, neither county’s going to want to give it up,” Hicks said. “Why would Carroll County want to give up the golden egg that they have to do essentially no services for? Why would Haralson County give up Walmart?”
The SPLOST referendum is planned for the March 2021 election. The current SPLOST ends on March 31.
In other business council members:
• approved an ordinance regulating food trucks in the city including what they can sell, how much space they can use, and where they can set up.
• approved a resolution to be forwarded to local legislators asking to raise the motel excise tax to 8% from it’s current 5%.
• rezoned 329 Lakeview Drive from residential to estate residential, allowing the owners to grow grapes on the property for personal use.
Proposed Carroll County SPLOST distribution
Estimated total revenue: $119,000,000
Carroll County — 62.39%, $74,244,100.00
Bowdon — 1.85%, $2,201,500.00
Bremen — 0.04%, $47,600.00
Carrollton — 22.07%, $26,263,300.00
Mount Zion — 1.53%, $1,820,700.00
Roopville — 0.20%, $238,000.00
Temple — 3.82%, $4,545,800.00
Villa Rica — 7.57%, $9,008,300.00
Whitesburg — 0.53%, $630,700.00