February 20-- Vidalia city officials claim Vidalia taxpayers will pay more property taxes if Toombs County has its way in ongoing arguments about how to split local option sales tax collections.
Mayors in Vidalia, Lyons and Santa Claus have refused to accept a proposal from the Toombs County commission that the county's share of collections be increased from 42.1% to 61.4%.
Vidalia City Manager Bill Torrance points out that if the county has its way, it would roll property taxes back for all property taxpayers nearly 1.5 mils. However, the decrease in sales tax collections in the cities would require the towns to significantly increase property taxes on city taxpayers. He says the result will be a net property tax increase for people in the three towns.
"It's not fair to say if it goes down in the county and up in the city, it's the same thing. It's not the same thing. It would require a nearly two mil increase in Vidalia, an over 4 mil tax increase in Lyons and a nearly 15 mil increase in Santa Claus to replace the money they lose," Torrance notes.
Equally important, according to Torrance, many of the services the county provides only to residents living in unincorporated areas of the county are paid in part by city residents who also pay the county property taxes.
"If you look at services provided only to unincorporated areas, there is over $2 million a year that goes only to unincorporated areas, but city residents pay the same tax rate and that money goes to subsidize those things. Thinks like road department, fire protection, animal control and the tipping fees we have to pay to use the landfill. What we are asking for is if you say you deserve more money, we should get the same services that you provide in the unincorporated area. Those services should be available to everyone," according to Torrance.
Since both sides have agreed to disagree, a mediator is being sought to see if some compromise can be reached. If not, the issue will end up in Superior Court in front of a judge from outside the Middle Judicial Circuit.