During the past four years, the city of Varnell has completed a number of major new projects, including building a new City Hall and renovating the historic Varnell House and expanding it into a senior center. So where should the city focus its energy during the next four years?
“I’d like to gradually eliminate our property tax,” said David Owens, who served on the City Council before stepping down earlier this year to run for mayor. “The goal I would work towards is that on Jan. 1, 2018, Varnell would have no property tax.”
Varnell currently has a tax rate of 2.04 mills that typically brings in $95,000 to $100,000 a year, or roughly one-seventh of the city budget.
“As a result of the LOST (Local Option Sales Tax) negotiations, we receive a larger share of the sales tax than we have in the past and that share will be increasing over the next 10 years,” Owens said.
Varnell currently gets 1.684 percent of Whitfield County LOST revenues, which is projected to bring in about $260,000 this year. Varnell’s share of the LOST revenue will climb to 1.894 percent by 2021.
“I believe that rising LOST revenues because of economic growth coupled with our increasing percentage will bring in about $6,000 a month more. I’d like to see us eliminate property taxes and eliminate registration for all youth sports. The city will pay those fees,” Owens said.
Owens served on the City Council from 1997 until stepping down in August. He served as mayor pro tem for 14 years, and served as interim mayor for several months in 2008 after Lindsey Metcalf stepped down as mayor and before Dan Peeples was elected to fill the remaining term.
Owens faces Anthony Hulsey in the Nov. 5 election. Early voting is underway and continues through Nov. 1.
Owens is the owner of Capitol Industries Inc., Cavalier Flooring Products and Dalton Direct Carpets. He has a bachelor of science in finance and accounting from Shorter College in Rome. He served in the Navy and is a member and former president of the National Association of Accountants/North Georgia.
Varnell has operated without a city manager since Jason Hall stepped down in March and Owens said he doesn’t see a need to fill the position anytime soon.
“We increased the hours of a part-time clerical position to help with some of the administrative functions and we hired a part-time project manager,” Owens said. “We’ve been able to handle all our projects. This has worked really well for us. When I left the council in August we had no plans to hire a city manager, and if I am elected mayor I would like to continue working with a project manager as long as possible.”
Owens said that would save taxpayers money.
“I intend to work in City Hall every day in the morning, not to micromanage things but to be more accessible to the citizens and to our employees,” he said.