Dawsonville leaders are contesting the latest round of Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, citing a lack of agreement between the city and Dawson County and alleged discrepancies in the time period over which SPLOST funds can be collected.
The Dawsonville City Council voted 4-0, with Council Member Mark French absent, at a called meeting March 22 to contest the recently approved SPLOST VII, over the lack of an intergovernmental agreement between the city and county.
Unlike SPLOST VI, which was approved by local voters in 2014, city and county officials were unable to reach a consensus needed for an intergovernmental agreement on SPLOST VII, disagreeing about how the $60 million would be divided between city and county projects.
According to City Attorney Kevin Tallant, prior to SPLOST VII being passed by voters in a special election last week, the city of Dawsonville had proposed an IGA, which was not accepted by the county. Tallant said that instead of proposing a new IGA, the county voted to approve a SPLOST VII resolution without an agreement between the two parties at the end of January.
In his words to the board, Tallant said that the city’s main concerns come from the fact that the $60 million SPLOST VII has been approved to be collected over a 6-year time period, which the city believes is contrary to Georgia codes.
“After we have looked deeply in the SPLOST resolution, we have some serious concerns about the legality of that tax,” Tallant said. “One of the things that was most concerning is that the SPLOST has been called for a period of six years, and we believe that the Georgia code is clear, and this is supported both by the Georgia Municipal Association and the Association of County Governments… both agree that this tax can only be collected for five years in this situation.”
Following the vote on Monday, Dawsonville Mayor Mike Eason told the Dawson County News that a 6-year SPLOST collection period is legal when an IGA is agreed upon, but that with only a county resolution, laws dictate SPLOST must only be collected over a five-year period.
Because of that discrepancy, Eason said that the city may have to file a civil action lawsuit against Dawson County if it fails to reach an IGA with the county.
“We can do an IGA now, it’s still not too late, but the law says that if you’re contesting SPLOST it has to be done in five business days from when it’s certified,” Eason said. “We might have to file the suit until we get the IGA done, but we can always withdraw it once we get an IGA.”
The county must then respond to the suit within 10 business days and the suit must go to court within 20 days, Eason said.
“You can’t take back what you already said, so if the court rules, then the SPLOST goes away,” Eason said. “But if we get an IGA it will meet the requirements to be a six-year SPLOST.”
Eason said that, while the action of filing a suit against the county may seem drastic, it isn’t as big of a deal as it sounds.
“This is not a crisis; it sounds like a crisis if you look at the fact that we may have to file a civil action, but it can be fixed,” Eason said. “We support the SPLOST, and what we want to do is clean it up so it’s not in jeopardy.”
The city and county have already been in contact since the city’s vote, and Eason said that they are confident that with a lot of work and cooperation, the two entities can come to an agreement and save SPLOST VII.
“We all support the SPLOST — I voted for it like all the council members did,” Eason said. “The county relies on it for a lot of things that provide services to everybody, so what we want to do is fix it; I think we’re going to and I feel confident that we’ll be able to come together and do what’s right.”
When contacted for comment on the situation and the claims made by Dawsonville officials, Dawson County Public Affairs Officer Laura Fulcher said that the county does not have any comment at the current time.