In an outraged letter on Friday afternoon, Dawson County officials responded to news that the city of Dawsonville is preparing a lawsuit over the county’s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax — SPLOST VII — calling the suit “extortion” and “based on good-old-fashioned greed.”
On Friday morning, the Dawsonville City Council voted 2-1, to move forward with a lawsuit against Dawson County to contest SPLOST VII, on the grounds that the tax is allegedly illegal without an intergovernmental agreement between the two governments.
During the same meeting, city officials also rejected an IGA that had been proposed by Dawson County over the last week, claiming that the proposed SPLOST agreement did not contain items that the city needed.
City officials have declined to speak on what the most recently proposed IGA contained and have not commented on what they are looking for with the agreement, but county officials contend that they have been more than fair with the city during the SPLOST VII negotiations that took place before and after the tax’s approval by voters.
“Historically, the County and City have split SPLOST proceeds 85% and 15%, which is more generous to Dawsonville than the law requires,” Dawson County Public Affairs Officer Laura Fulcher wrote in the letter. “In the leadup to the election, the County offered to continue with that status quo, but Dawsonville rejected that and demanded millions of dollars more. So the County put the SPLOST to the voters to decide.”
In the letter, Fulcher writes that the Dawson County Board of Commissioners is shocked and disappointed by the city’s actions, which they see as “undermining the will of voters” who voted 78 percent in favor of SPLOST VII.
Breaking the county’s silence on claims of illegality that have been put forth by Dawsonville Attorney Kevin Tallant, Fulcher wrote that the county is certain that SPLOST VII is legally supported by the plain language of Georgia law and that the true purpose of the city’s lawsuit is to claim a larger share of SPLOST VII funds.
“Notwithstanding the benefits to the citizens and the expressed will of the voters, the city of Dawsonville has voted to file a lawsuit seeking to nullify the SPLOST in an obvious attempt to extort more money out of the County, she wrote. “While the city contends the SPLOST is ‘illegal,’ the city was willing to refrain from filing the lawsuit if the County gave the city more money and projects.”
Fulcher alleges that by calling the tax illegal, while also negotiating for more SPLOST VII funding, Dawsonville is acting “based on good-old-fashioned greed.”
Speaking to the Dawson County News on Friday afternoon, Fulcher said that the county is not going to back down from its position on the legality of SPLOST VII and is prepared to meet any legal challenge to the tax.
In a statement later on Friday, Dawsonville officials denied the accusations of extortion made by Dawson County, accusing the county of trying to "ram" SPLOST VII through the approval process and burdening residents with an illegal tax.
The city's statement also accuses Dawson County of not including Dawsonville's projects in the voter-approved SPLOST VII list and thwarting "the city's ability to use the SPLOST proceeds".
"This is not about greed. This is not about extortion. This is about someone needing to stand up to Dawson County and make certain that when it taxes the people on everything they purchase, the tax is legal and can be spent in the manner the law intended," the statement reads.
This story will be updated.