Much debate has been put forth on the topic of the TSPLOST tax in Gilmer County. And, either fortunately or unfortunately depending on your perspective and opinion, there is still much to come. Yet, it seems much of the arguments swirling over the topic center on the idea that its already done, and that’s just not true.
The Board of Commissioners has voted and approved the TSPLOST to appear on the ballot. That does not mean that this tax is already a done deal. There is a vote, there is a chance, there are weeks of opportunity. If you have any opinion on whether or not there is to be an extra penny on your sales tax in this county, if you have any thoughts on this topic, then there is a chance to make your choice. Even if you have never voted in an election before, even if you think it doesn’t matter who sits in a seat on congress 65 miles away in Atlanta or 650 miles away in Washington D.C., this is the time to directly influence one tax that directly affects you.
There is no reason we should be treating this TSPLOST like its already passed. Even members of the board themselves have at least said they don’t care if it passes or not. The topic at hand is if you want to pay more now to accomplish something quicker. Sooner or Later?
There has been a mass of information offered on the subject from its official inception at a town hall meeting to debates on the efficacy to negotiations with the city to plans for the road department. While they continue to deliberate the deeper details defining this discretional tax, you as a citizen are the one who definitively determines the destiny of this decision. Do not take this as done deal.
There is time as the Commissioners finalize the ballot question and projects attached to it for citizens to continue speaking for or against the TSPLOST. There is time to consider the benefits of it as well as the costs. But this is coming to the ballot and being voted on. Not offering your vote is simply a statement that you do not care. You do not care about your money. And it’s not a statement to the government, it is not a statement to the Board of Commissioners that you don’t care. It is a statement to yourself, that you are passive. You are a sheep, and you will allow these people to impose anything they want on you.
If you support it and you want to see progress sooner and are willing to pay for it, then vote that way. If you are against it, and you see it as impatience of those unwilling to wait for it, then vote that way. More importantly, discuss it, talk with people. Share your thoughts and ideas. Debate and convince each other. Do not let anger overtake the debate, but instead understand and counterpoint. And stop talking like this topic is already closed.
GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – With some citizens’ concerns rising over the coming vote for the 2020 TSPLOST, more details are emerging about the tax, what it will be used for, and what items will bear the tax.
According to the Single County TSPLOST Guide document posted by the ACCG (Association County Commissioners of Georgia), there are six items that are exempt from taxation on the law. (See O.C.G.A 48-8-269)
• The sale or use of any type of fuel used for off-road heavy-duty equipment, off-road farm or agricultural
equipment, or locomotives;
• The sale or use of jet fuel to or by a qualifying airline at a qualifying airport;
• The sale or use of fuel that is used for propulsion of motor vehicles on the public highways*;
• The sale or use of energy used in the manufacturing or processing of tangible goods primarily for resale;
• The sale or use of motor fuel for public mass transit; or
• The purchase or lease of any motor vehicle
As stated in their website, “ACCG is a nonprofit instrumentality of Georgia’s county governments. Formed in 1914 with 19 charter county members, today ACCG serves as the consensus building, training, and legislative organization for all 159 county governments in the state.”
So while vehicle purchases and most fuel purchases are exempt from the sales tax, it seems that all other purchases are included. It is our understanding that this does also include basic bills like groceries, water, propane fuel, electricity, and even cable and internet as they are not listed in the exemptions.
Furthermore, Gilmer Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlie Paris offered a few more insights as FYN received answers to a few questions after a Special Called Meeting in January.
Paris has noted across several meetings the progress the road department has made in recent years and the progress still needed to be in the shape he wants them to be. He has also stated that he doesn’t personally mind if the 2020 TSPLOST passes or not as he sees that progress continuing in that department. Rather, Paris has stated that he feels the TSPLOST is an answer to a rising issue as people are wanting to see more immediate results and progress. The TSPLOST, according to Paris, can accomplish in 5 years what will happen over the next 25 years.
This time, Paris offers a few more details as he says the county will be looking to pave gravel roads with the TSPLOST, thereby reducing the costs of maintaining these gravel roads. Paris said, “The end objective is, at the end of that 5 years, to have a road system that is in good enough shape and requires little enough maintenance that we can maintain it properly with the resources that we have.”
Many times he has noted how heavy rains devastate some of the gravel roads in the county which adversely affects the Road Department’s efforts and schedule to maintain all 500 miles of roads in the county.
The main focus of this TSPLOST is actually becoming clearer to transform the Road Department. Paris says that by paving the gravel roads, they would change from having motor-graders to pothole patchers, from attempting to do everything for roads to contracting asphalt paving and focusing the Road Department on tar and chip paving, and from one central road department to quadrant bases focused on their sections of the county.
On that last point, Paris said, “Ideally, what I would like to have, would be a base in all four quadrants of the county and have that base work exclusively within that quadrant… We can’t do that right now. We don’t have the resources to set up those bases. We don’t have the equipment to man four bases.”
Paris went on to say that an option with the 2020 TSPLOST could help set up those bases if they decide to take that direction. However, the idea is unfeasible currently as the county would need the workers and a lot more equipment to spread around the county than it currently possesses. Paris did call this option an ideal situation and something to work towards.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Paving roads and the amount of spending came into debate as the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners met with Mayors and members of City Hall from both Ellijay and East Ellijay today to discuss TSPLOST negotiations.
The discussion centered on the split that each entity wanted to see with the upcoming possible TSPLOST tax. Each entity vied for an increase to their portion over and above what they got for the previous SPLOST split. Debate arose around the idea of the cities increasing to a flat 2 percent for East Ellijay and 6 percent for Ellijay. This would be up from the 1.93 percent that East Ellijay has with the SPLOST split and up from 5.72 percent that Ellijay has.
However, as the discussion progressed, Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris said he also wanted the county’s percentage to go up considering the 500 miles of road in the unincorporated parts of the county, roads maintained by the county.
The two mayors countered with arguments of their own. Mayor of Ellijay, Al Hoyle noted that many of the roads they maintain in the city are used more than those in the outer parts as people travel out of town on city-maintained roads to reach the county roads.
East Ellijay Mayor Mack West added to the notion saying that East Ellijay has a constant need for Eller Road as an example. Due to the high traffic and usage, the road is already showing cracks after only three years since paving.
However, the topic ultimately came to rest at proceeding with the same split that each entity sees on the normal SPLOST, Gilmer County receives 92 percent, Ellijay receives 5.72 percent, and East Ellijay receives 1.93 percent.
However, the negotiations of percentage were not the only discussion held in the meeting as citizens debated the TSPLOST in the Citizens Wishing to Speak section.
Bill Craig, of North Georgia Diamond, voiced his opinion that the retail business community may have been left out of the discussion on the topic. Saying that the county hasn’t considered the impact to businesses that more sales tax might have. He offered scenarios to consider that people visiting might go elsewhere or stop early to buy groceries or similar necessities if they visit Ellijay, or that someone might visit another county to buy larger items like his store provides, being jewelry and diamonds.
While Paris did say he met with one retailer privately to discuss the topic, Craig repeated that he felt the county had not done enough to understand the business impact.
Mayor West commented on possible impact saying if he was going to buy something like a diamond, he would shop with North Georgia Diamond over driving to Atlanta for only a $100 difference, coming from the 1 percent sales tax increase.
Craig went on to say that adding TSPLOST would make Gilmer one of the highest sales tax percentages in the state.
In fact, according to the Georgia Sales and Use Tax Rate Chart (pictured to the right) published, for January 2020, by the Georgia Department of Revenue, of the 159 counties in Georgia, just over half of them have an 8 percent sales tax.
Actually, 83 counties have an 8 percent sales tax, while 69 counties (including Gilmer) have a 7 percent sales tax, 4 counties have a 6 percent sales tax, and only one county, Ware County, has a 9 percent sales tax. This does exclude Fulton and DeKalb counties with split sales tax in parts of the county according to this document.
Also, there are 87 counties that currently have some form of a TSPLOST, whether it is the original state TSPLOST or a locally added TSPLOST after that statewide vote.
Looking more specifically to the Highway 515 corridor, as some have called it, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, and Union Counties all, currently, have a sales tax rate of 7 including LOST (Local Option Sales Tax), SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax), and ESPLOST (Educational Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax).
One more comment of major note came from Chairman Paris who said, “I’m fine with it either way,” when discussing if the TSPLOST will pass on the ballots. Paris admitted a large amount of pressure on him from the public. He has stated in previous meetings that he feels the road department and the county’s roads are progressing. He ultimately simplified the discussion and the TSPLOST vote as he summed it up by saying its a decision on if we want our roads fixed over the next 25 years or the next 5 years. The TSPLOST, as he described, is simply a way to achieve the same results faster.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners is advertising a meeting early in the new year with the city governments of Ellijay and East Ellijay.
This Special Called Meeting, set for January 7, 2020, at 10 a.m., has only one agenda item, “Discussion and possible action of Intergovernmental Agreement for a proposed T-SPLOST with the Cities of Ellijay and East Ellijay.”
The meeting is actually set the day before the county is set to hold its January Workshop, scheduled for January 8, 2019, at 9 a.m.
While not fully confirmed, the county has held similar meetings in the past when discussing their SPLOST renewal in 2018 where they negotiated each of the cities’ percentage that they would take from the tax. At that time, it was confirmed that the county could have moved forward without the cities, but noted several benefits to cooperating and negotiating their involvement.
With the TSPLOST, there has been no specific discussion on the need, benefits, or reason for involving the cities since the Board already approved the TSPLOST to go for a vote on the ballots without them. However, County Attorney David Clark did say at that meeting that the county needed to finalize details and work on a few more items before they would be ready to put it on the ballot.
In any scenario, at this time, it appears the county will be reaching out to the cities for their support of or involvement in the TSPLOST in the coming week.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Two days before Christmas, the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners met to discuss last-minute items of the 2020 Budget and an Airport lease before the end of 2019.
Approving the 2020 Budget, the Board is officially ready for the year after a process starting in September preparing for Budget Hearings with Department Heads and Elected Officials.
With discussions over the Road Department from Public Works Director Jim Smith, the topic of attracting people for positions came up as Smith requested confirmation of budgeting for two unfilled positions.
The county has been looking for people to hire into these positions for months and still has not hired anyone. Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris did say the funding was there, but voiced concerns over the possibility of filling the positions after the long period.
The board is also moving forward with a lease to the Georgia Forestry Commission. Public Works Director Jim Smith is finalizing details alongside County Attorney David Clark as they divide one back room and split between the airport and the commission without granting access to the entire area for the commission.
The county is awaiting a response on changes to the agreement and should be finalizing the lease in the coming months. One detail still in flux is a request for control over a full hangar, another is an issue with credit cards and the county’s card reader for the purchase of fuel. With several possibilities being discussed, the board left Smith to work through the operational details over the office space, hangar space, and buying fuel. The item will return to the January agenda for the board to see the agreement and vote on approval.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – County officials are looking deeper into the demolition of the county’s old pool and deciding what to salvage and what to dispose of as they look at placing the county’s new pool project there.
The county is also looking at the plumbing as Maintenance Director D.J. Spagnola said he wanted to be involved with the process as the dig down so that he could look at plumbing for the restrooms and pool project to determine needed fixes and replacements before they move forward with constructing the new pool.
Commission Chairman Charlie Paris said at the December meetings, “Originally, I really wanted to have this done by opening day. I don’t think we’re going to be able to make that… I’m getting really frustrated because it has been seven months now…”
Paris went on to say that most of the county’s time has been spent looking for a location when it started at Clear Creek and then on to River Park. The county began looking for property but came to the conclusion that they didn’t want the old location due to the costs of demolition, a project they could effectively delay until a later date. Now, considering the costs of buying property versus demolishing the old location for the new pool.
The county has almost completely decided on this location for the new pool. However, reservations are still being held as Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson has said in previous meetings that she wants to see what they find during the demolition before setting the location in stone. She did note that she is for the location, but is just wanting to hold a way out in case they find something big and to consider the price of the demolition.
As Paris said he still wanted to expedite the project to attempt to complete it before the season ends, Ferguson said, “I commend you for the work. We’ve tried different avenues. I think this is too important a project to speed through and rush it anyway… I think it’s better that we have taken the time and we have tried different options. We have considered all options that were possibilities.”
The county is focusing on this location, though, and are looking to get out and receive bids on the demolition as soon as possible.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners are calling for one last meeting in 2019.
Next week will see a special called meeting for the board, but it will come two days before Christmas Day. The schedule sets the meeting to begin at 8:30 a.m. on the morning of December 23, 2019.
While the meeting agenda is set with only three items, it almost got bigger last week with the Board of Commissioners looking to add a few items tabled from their regular meeting.
With Public Works Director Jim Smith returning to the meetings after taking personal time, the Commissioners had originally tabled the Concrete Bid agenda item from November. Commission Chairman Charlie Paris asked to table the bid again until this meeting on December 23 to give Smith more time to analyze the bids. However, taking time as the meeting progressed Smith worked on the bid submissions to make sure to give the board an answer. The board wound up awarding the bid in the meeting and cancelling its addition to this meeting.
However, the meetings’ second addition did not get canceled as new information is arising from the agenda item to consider possible action to rent Airport space to the Georgia Forestry Commission. The board is taking extra time to investigate issues with the Forestry Commission’s previous rental space in Pickens and agreement details.
The meeting will go forward with three agenda items;
1.Discussion and possible action to rent Airport space to the Georgia Forestry Commission
2. Discussion and possible action on approval of an MOU with SORBA/IMBA
3. Resolution to Adopt the 2020 Budget.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The county is moving forward with and advertisement for bids to demolish the old pool after approval this month in their work session.
Despite some slight confusion in having the entire board on the same page about using the location as the site for the coming pool, County Attorney David Clark urged the county to move forward with demolition plans for the site due to hazards and liability issues that could arise with the site.
Chairman Paris said his original understanding was that the board was very much in favor of the location.
And although Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson wanted more discussion on officially declaring the site as the definitive location of the new pool, she did agree that they should go ahead with the demolition proceedings and the vote came unanimously in favor of advertising for bids.
In fact, Ferguson even said she did not have a problem with the location as the new pool site “unless there is something crazy that we find under the pool…” Ferguson’s concerns tended toward unexpected costs that could come through issues they had not found yet or may find as they demolish the old pool.
As she said she didn’t have a problem with the site, she later added that she didn’t realize that they had agreed on the location “no matter what.”
Paris did point out that a lot of time has been spent on site locations and inspections and that the county has yet to even advertise for bids on the project. Continuing along the process, the target of a pool constructed in May is fast approaching. In fact, the Memorial Day target has been spoken of less and less in recent meetings.
However, recalling the original meetings and planning session for the project, Paris did note several times that the Memorial Day opening was not a deadline, but rather a target date that he wanted to shoot for.
Still, progress is continuing on the project with this advertisement, and should the county move forward and accept a bid, it will be one step closer on a long journey that has become the pool project.