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Manager says tax district needed for I-16 project
Voters will decide issue on Nov. 8
Tom Couch
Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch

When Bulloch County voters head to the ballots Nov. 8, they will be asked to allow Bulloch County Commissioners to form a special tax district that would help fund a proposed industrial park.
The referendum addresses Georgia’s Redevelopment Power Law, which allows local governments to use Tax Allocation Districts to fund redevelopment projects.
The law was adopted by the General Assembly in 1985, but now that Bulloch County is considering an industrial park off U.S. 301 South near Interstate 16, there is a need for a tax district to fund infrastructure so businesses can begin locating there, said Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch.
Tax districts “help local governments attract private development and new businesses which create jobs, draws customers and generates additional public and private investment without putting pressure on the current tax base and taxpayers,” he said.
If Bulloch voters approve the measure that would allow commissioners to install a district, Couch said it would not increase taxes on local residents.
Instead, new businesses coming into the designated district would pay their taxes, which, in turn, would raise property values in the district due to the new businesses, and the increase in taxes from higher property values would be set aside for funding the infrastructure in the industrial park, he said.

No cost to citizens
Couch said there is no risk of cost to citizens.
“Funding to support new infrastructure needed for development in a (tax district) is secured by a ‘tax allocation increment,’ which is the increase in property tax revenues resulting from the redevelopment activities taking place within a defined (district),” Couch said. “Tax allocation financing would allow the county to charge the costs of constructing public facilities and infrastructure directly to the new or expanded businesses that use them, rather than the public at large.”
 In return, the businesses benefit from the construction of facilities that might not otherwise be available to them, he said. 
The county would collect the annual increase of revenues as a result of new development, and place it into a special fund to finance the public improvements.
The remainder of the taxes would go back into the general fund.
Once the financing obligations to pay for the public improvements are no longer, the TAD is dissolved and all revenues are distributed back to the general fund.
In anticipation of the industrial park development, Bulloch County Commissioners requested local legislation by the General Assembly in the 2011 session to give Bulloch County the authority to consider creating one or more tax districts in the future under the Redevelopment Powers Law, he said.
However, Bulloch voters must approve giving the commission that authority on the Nov. 8 ballot, he said.
“If approved, the county is required to form an agency with the responsibility of carrying out the redevelopment powers and must also approve a redevelopment plan, subject to public disclosure, that clearly defines the tax district boundaries.
“The plan must also identify the public infrastructure needed based on expected development and create a workable financial strategy.”

SPLOST question
On the same ballot, voters also will be asked to approve the extension of the current 1 percent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST),  which would continue to be used for water and sewer infrastructure, for  the project, as well as other capital improvements.
If extended, SPLOST will provide $9 million in funds set aside for that purpose, Couch said.
The SPLOST “will fund any land acquisition, site improvements and infrastructure primarily in the industrial park, while future (tax district) revenues will provide gap financing for additional infrastructure to serve areas both in and around the industrial park,” he said.
The extended SPLOST also would provide an estimated total of $82,212,716 to fund improvements in public safety, transportation, solid waste and other services and needs around the county.
The Georgia legislature approved the use of tax districts in 1985.
“Presently, over 30 cities and counties in Georgia are currently using or have approved (tax districts). Numerous other cities and counties across the state are considering using tax increment financing for various projects,” Couch said.
A tax district can last up to 30 years, but it is likely that the I-16/US 301 TAD would have a shorter build out period, he said.
“After the district expires, all tax revenues will return to the participating jurisdiction’s general fund,” Couch said
During  Tuesday’s Bulloch County Commission meeting, commissioners heard a presentation by Ross & Associates regarding the proposed industrial park.
Bill Ross and a team of engineers reviewed a study about the project and said Bulloch County is a prime location for an industrial park along Interstate 16.
“Bulloch County is the capitol of the I-16 corridor,” said associate Ken Blakely.
Out of 43 sites in 14 counties along I-16, most did not compare with Bulloch’s location, he said.

Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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