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County, city near deal for tax split
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Dawson County and Dawsonville officials are soon expected to ratify an agreement on a proposed extension of the 1-cent sales tax that will go before voters in November.

"The city and county have come to an agreement, which is what you always want to try to achieve. It's a credit to the organizations to try to work through things," said County Commission Chairman Mike Berg.

The two governments have been in talks for several weeks over how best to distribute the tax money.

On Thursday, the county commission voted for a plan in which the county would receive 85 percent of the funding and the city the other 15 percent.

Dawsonville City Councilman Chris Gaines said he believed the compromise to be fair.

"Coming together and compromising on an 85/15 split is good for the whole community and ensures that the projects we have identified through community input will soon be able to become a reality," he said.

Among the city's proposed projects are plans for a park on Main Street, a farmers market, water and sewer improvements and funding for downtown revitalization.

"All of these projects protect us better, provide for our future and further define the great quality of life in our city and county," Gaines said.

Dawsonville officials have agreed to eliminate a request to fund debt obligation on city hall, but replaced the wording to include the acquisition of the building and property.

Gaines hailed the special purpose local option sales tax, or SPLOST, as "a great way for our county and city to fund important projects."

"We are in the unique situation that the majority of funding comes from people outside our community that spend money here, yet our citizens and businesses receive the benefit of the projects," he said.

Dawson officials have indicated roads are the top priority for the county's share of sales tax collections, amounting to an estimated 63 to 72 percent of the public works projects.

The county's list also includes park improvements and to buy public safety vehicles such as patrol cars and an ambulance. Initially, there were hopes for a community center and off-site file storage, but those projects were re-evaluated in the negotiation process.

Both sides have said they are not planning to prefund any purchases and all projects would be handled on a "pay-as-you-go" basis.

A date has not been set for the two governments to finalize the arrangement.

City Clerk Bonnie Warne said the date would be set when council members return from Savannah, where they were attending a conference earlier this week.

The current sales tax program, known as SPLOST V, was approved by voters in 2007. It started in 2009 and runs through May 2015. If passed, SPLOST VI would begin in June 2015.

Revenue projections from the tax range from $36.4 million over five years without a governmental agreement to $45.3 million for six years with an agreement.

An agreement must be reached for the tax to be collected for six years.