The release of a recent tax study in Barrow County that attempted to evaluate services to city residents merits some further study.
At its core, the Dorfman study suggests that the Barrow County government receives more in tax money from city residents — those who live in Winder, Auburn, Statham, Bethlehem, Carl and Braselton — than the residents receive back in county services.
This is not a new argument. In fact, the issue of service delivery between cities and counties is an on-going debate where both sides jockey for advantage. That was the purpose of the Dorfman study, which was sponsored by the Barrow County Mayor’s Association in their effort to bring pressure on the county government.
But exactly how that will work out isn’t clear. It’s unlikely that the county government is going to give a tax rebate to city residents based on the study. In fact, the county may believe the study is not accurate.
The core issue is that property tax wealth tends to locate in municipal areas more than unincorporated areas. Some of that is due to available infrastructure, such as roads, water, sewerage, etc. And some of that is just historical trends where commercial businesses tend to aggregate in towns rather than being scattered over a larger area.
The result is that many towns have larger and deeper tax resources than corresponding unincorporated areas.
On the expense side, county governments tend to focus resources toward unincorporated areas rather than in towns. Law enforcement, zoning regulations and other aspects of county governments often have little overlap with municipal resources.
The result is often a skewed distribution of dollars where those who pay the most inside towns get less in return in the way of services.
There is no easy solution to this problem. But at least there is data on the table so both sides of the issue can have a starting point for discussion.
It’s a start in what will likely prove to be a very long debate.
As a resident of the county, I welcome this debate. Let's better understand the Winder Gas Company and it's role in funding the City of Winder with ridiculous and non-competitive gas pricing. The Gas Company has to be a cash cow for Winder.