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City revenue on the decline

POSTED: January 13, 2010 4:00 a.m.

Dawsonville’s tax revenues continued to slide in 2009, according to a report the city council reviewed during its first meeting of the year.

  

Kim Cornelison, city administrator and clerk, told the council during the Jan. 4 meeting that local option sales tax, or LOST, revenue has declined by 13 percent over the past five years.

  

The money, which funds a significant portion of the city’s general government operations, fell about 4 percent, from $828,563 in 2008 to $795,847 in 2009.

  

The city’s general government fund pays for day-to-day operations and ongoing projects.

  

Money from enterprise funds like water, sewer and garbage rarely go into the city’s general fund.

  

“The general fund should stand nearly on its own,” Cornelison said.

  

“You can take a little bit [from other funds], but it’s not the best practice. We’ve been very disciplined about not taking any funds from enterprise funds or taking only minimal funds.”

  

She said making up the dollars when revenues fall short means the city “has to think outside the box, trying to think of every way we can to generate revenues that are beneficial to keeping the local government in the black.”

  

Cornelison said such measures could include a municipal property tax. City residents currently must pay only a county property tax.

  

“The local option sales tax has allowed us in recent years to continue the legacy of not imposing an ad valorem tax,” she said. “We may eventually be faced with the possibility of an ad valorem tax.”

  

Such a measure, Cornelison explained, would not come without notice.

“If the city council felt like revenues were short and they needed to assess the property tax, then there’s a millage rate form we’ll go through in July or August, and we’ll send that to the county as well as to the state,” she said. “... Then tax assessment is collected on their property tax.”

  

Mayor Joe Lane Cox said the drop in revenues was no surprise.

  

“This is a problem all over the state of Georgia and the United States,” Cox said.

  

He did voice concern, however, over the state’s collection and distribution of LOST money.

  

Cox said legislation could soon be introduced at the state level “for cities and counties to collect their own sales tax.”

  

“We need to stay on our representatives to make sure they straighten this out,” he said. “We want to collect all people pay. If people are paying it, we want our share of it. We need to stay on top of it.”

 

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