By Kristi Reed
Some Barrow County citizens may not be getting a fair return on their tax dollars, according to a recent study.
The study, conducted by Dorfman Consulting of Watkinsville, Ga., was commissioned by the Barrow County mayor’s association in an attempt to determine if city residents were paying for county services they do not receive.
The results indicate that the county saves millions of dollars by not providing certain services within incorporated areas of the county.
In 2007, the latest year analyzed in the report, the county saved an estimated $6.7 million.
The core issue is the county’s service delivery strategy. City leaders argue that money is being collected from the municipalities and then spent elsewhere.
Winder mayor Chip Thompson said the county has been provided with a copy of the study.
“We have a good relationship with the county and they’re taking a look at our study now and we’ll come to some kind of resolution with it,” he said.
The study concluded that, in order to achieve equity between the county and its municipalities, adjustments to the cities’ millage rate or some other form of funds transfer would have to take place.
After weighing several factors including the cost of providing basic services, augmenting county services and land uses within municipalities, the consultants determined that the county would have to transfer over $5.4 million to the municipalities to achieve funding equity.
This transfer would include $2.6 million to Winder, $1.3 million to Auburn and over $900,100 to the Town of Braselton.
The funds could be transferred directly from county coffers or indirectly through lower millage rates within the municipalities.
“The dollar values estimated here certainly suggest that some type of accommodation or equity-increasing mechanism should be agreed upon between all parties,” according to the report.
Thompson said he believes the cities and county can work together to reach an equitable agreement.
“We’re working with the county on a lot of different things,” Thompson said, citing stormwater maintenance as an example.
“It probably will not be a situation where dollars change hands as much as maybe different ways in which we can work together to deliver services inside and outside the city,” he said. “If our citizens are paying for services and they’re not getting delivered inside the city, then we need to work with the county and correct that.”
How about we consolidate the city governments into the county Chip? Think of the savings. Funny how the outcome of the study favors the people paying for the study. Please make the study available to everyone that will be impacted by your efforts....me in the county ...where I'm sure my taxes will increase.
Changes that you suggest carry a tremendous cost. It is likely that Barrow County would want to immediately employ all displaced city employees along with all associated costs.
Duplication of services was addressed years ago by the Georgia Legislature and it appears that services were eliminated without eliminating the associated costs, by the county. The budget just approved by Barrow County reveals the lack of financial control of taxpayer dollars. Why on earth would a city within Barrow County want to pay even more for lack of oversight of a budget.
The suggestion that all cities within Barrow County become a part of Barrow County is absurd even though I believe you meant this as a tongue-in-cheek comment. Citizens choose to move into a city for services offered and the atmosphere of small and large cities.
History proves my argument considering that all cities located within Barrow County were incorporated up to 22 years prior to Barrow County being established, the exception being Braselton (established 2 years after Barrow County).
How many cities in Barrow County would cease to exist through unification? All cities would cease to exist! A city cannot exist without providing at least three services? From 1993 to 1995, 187 cities lost charters for failure to meet the service requirements.
Barrow County should pay municipal citizens the monies that have been obtained via duplicate taxes. Checks should go directly to taxpayers rather than the municipalities since the municipality will find a way to spend the money. Taxpayers have already paid for the municipal services once.
Your assessment of tongue-in-cheek is somewhat correct. However, the city of Winder has a sleeping dog that not many want to talk about. The Winder Gas Company charges outrageous rates and I assume makes a tidy profit off County residents (like me) that supplement the City budget. Fair is fair, let's consider some competition on Natural Gas prices for the Winder Gas Company service area AND then talk. Why is it that most people in Metro Atlanta can shop for natural gas prices and yet customers of Winder Gas Company can not?
BTW - I agree with your statements about the mis-management of county budget and look forward to the new team having a chance to put in controls. Just think the conversation of asking for a "refund" to go to the Barrow Cities is ill timed and needs to be considered about a year from now and looked at with a phase in approach.