A settlement in a long legal battle between Gwinnett County and its cities will not only benefit Braselton’s general fund, but lower property taxes for residents, too.
Since 2009, Gwinnett County and its 15 cities have debated how the county charges city residents for services — namely police, and fire and emergency services.
By state law, counties and cities have to determine which governments provide services without duplication and how they will be funded. Those governments that don’t reach an agreement for their Service Delivery Strategy face the possibility not being eligible to apply for state grants, loans and permits.
As a town that spans into Gwinnett County, Braselton was involved in the legal fight over the county’s Service Delivery Strategy. Without an agreement, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs said Gwinnett County and its cities were ineligible to apply for state grants, loans and permits. That didn’t apply to the other parts of Braselton in Jackson, Barrow and Hall counties.
A lawsuit was filed by Gwinnett County in March 2009 and the dispute went to trial in August 2010. In September 2011, a trial judge issued an order, which was then appealed by the county. Still, the county and its cities continued to work on a settlement.
“It’s worth repeating that countless hours of negotiations and a great deal of hard work went into reaching this settlement,” said Gwinnett County Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash in a statement. “The issues surrounding service delivery and funding would not have been resolved without the commitment of all the elected officials involved – mayors, council members and commissioners.”
As part of the settlement, Gwinnett County is set to pay its cities an estimated $30 million over a seven-year period.
For Braselton, the town will receive $493,000 this year from Gwinnett County to place into the town’s general fund.
For the second through seventh years of the settlement, Braselton will get an estimated $142,346 a year — although that figure is based on the county’s tax digest, which could change in the future.
Overall, Braselton may receive a potential total of $1.3 million from the Gwinnett County settlement.
As for Gwinnett County taxpayers, they’ll benefit from the deal in the form of a rollback on their property taxes.
The agreement creates the establishment of four new service districts in Gwinnett County for fire and emergency medical services, police services, Loganville emergency services; and planning, development, zoning and code enforcement services.
The new districts will become effective on Jan. 1, 2013. Beginning in 2013, property owners in those cities that opted out of certain service districts will not pay county property taxes for services provided to the service districts by Gwinnett County. There will be no changes in county property tax billing in 2012; however, the change in service providers is effective immediately. Braselton doesn’t have its own property tax.
Under the settlement, Gwinnett County will provide services — such as police and fire — only to cities that elected to participate in the special service district for each district.
Since Braselton has its own police department, the town council decided during a called meeting on Feb. 7 to not join the special police service district in Gwinnett County.
On that same day, Gwinnett County and all of its cities held called meetings to adopt documents tied to the Service Delivery Strategy agreement. A judge signed a consent order approving the settlement on Wednesday, Feb. 8.
The Georgia Department of Community Affairs will be asked to lift its sanctions that have prevented Gwinnett County and its cities from receiving state loans, grants and permits. As of Friday, Feb. 10, the county and its cities were listed by the DCA as ineligible for the state funds and permits.