With more than $100 million in development coming to Dawson County in the next 12-18 months, Commission Chairman Mike Berg shared some potential good news about taxes.
During his State of the County address at Thursdays Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Berg indicated that extra sales tax revenue from new commercial construction may mean lower property taxes for residents.
By 2017 or maybe 2018, as a board, we should be able to not only roll back our increase in millage, but also reduce our millage increase, he said. Were a sales tax county, which gives us the latitude to take a strong look at millage and see if we cant reduce it.
A 110-acre power center called Dawson Marketplace is planned for an area between Dawson Forest Road and Whitmire Drive on Ga. 400.
The Georgia Department of Transportation recently approved two stop lights on Ga. 400 one at Whitmire Drive and a second less than one-half mile north at Quill Drive.
A second development across Ga. 400 will include a yet-unnamed grocery store. Six outparcels next to it have been leased.
To date, ground has not been broken on either project.
Tax benefits for us are going to be huge, Berg said. We have four restaurants that have called us in the last little bit to talk about being in this county.
Those restaurants include Burgers & Shakes, which has placed a sign at a storefront near Ingles, Culvers restaurant, Panera Bread and Chilis.
We should be very proud of whats going on, he said.
Unlike most counties in Georgia, a majority of Dawson County government is funded with sales tax revenues, primarily from shoppers at the North Georgia Premium Outlet Mall, instead of property tax revenue.
It is the same revenue that has allowed the county to keep its property tax millage rate the same for nearly 12 years.
Over 80 percent of the SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) dollars we get come from people outside the county who come here to shop, Berg said. So, other people are paying for the things we enjoy. Thats a very positive thing.
One of those things is paying off a $48.4 million bond debt on the countys government center, which opened January 2012.
A bond burning is being held Thursday, July 16, at 6 p.m. following the boards regularly scheduled meeting.
At the end of this month, we will be less than $3 million in debt, Berg said. Well probably pay off fire equipment, which will put us at $2 million.
Additionally, unemployment dropped to 5.2 percent in May from a high of 11.4 percent in January 2011, according to Berg and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As sales tax revenues are headed up in the county, so is a new gas excise tax.
House Bill 170 changed the way DOT gets their money, Berg said. Instead of a sales tax on gas, we have to pay an excise tax another 17.5 cents per gallon.
The excise tax is expected to generate $1 billion per year in revenues for the state.
Eighty to 85 percent of people in Dawson County leave every day to go down 400, and plans are in place to widen Ga. 400 in Forsyth County, Berg said. That means quicker access up here and quicker access downtown. Its all interconnected.
DAWSON NEEDS A LONG TERM VISION
With road improvements and new developments coming online, what will Dawson County look like in a few years?
I think we need a vision for 2020-30, Berg said. We need to bring folks together from the city, county, school board, Etowah and the development authority and do what other communities have done and talk about where we should be in the next 20 years. How can we react to the future? I hope well get to that point. It is very important.
Dawsonville Mayor James Grogan was contacted for comment.
Of course I would participate, he said. There is nothing that prevents the city and county from working together on some projects, if we will just get out of our own way. We all have the best interests of our citizens in mind, in every decision we make. The county could be a vital part of our down revitalization, if we work together.