But state Sen. Charlie Bethel, R-Dalton, says what commissioners want will more likely take a change in the LOST law, since that is what the county has, not the HOST law. He says he has already asked the legislative counsel to look into the idea.
“They were a little bit wary. The general rule is that you can’t charge a different millage rate. Everybody has to pay the same rate. The HOST is a bit of an anomaly in Georgia. But they agreed to do some more homework and try to see if we can do it in a way that complies with the state constitution,” Bethel said. “If we get an unfavorable report, then we have to decide if we want to try to change the state constitution. If we get a favorable report, then we have to see if others are interested in this. It will require a change to a state law, this can’t be done through local legislation, and if only a few counties are interested it would be an uphill battle.”
Bethel said he’s interested in providing tax relief to homeowners.
“At the same time, I’m wary about just shifting the tax burden. If you shift the tax burden away from single-family residential, then you shift it towards business and industry and to everybody who lives in rental properties and apartments,” he said.
Dalton Mayor David Pennington says he is very concerned about any proposal that would shift the tax burden to commercial and industrial property.
“Right now, we need businesses to come in or expand and create jobs. We don’t need to be penalizing them,” he said.
Noting that Dalton’s tax base is 70 percent commercial and industrial and just 30 percent residential, Pennington said the plan would also penalize the city.
“This would tax city taxpayers for services to the unincorporated part of the county,” he said. “We would oppose this.”
Pennington says that if commissioners want to give relief to homeowners they should cut their property tax rate.
But Babb noted that the county has already taken several steps to help business, such as adopting a 100 percent freeport exemption and, unlike some other neighboring counties, refusing to adopt an excise tax on energy used in manufacturing after the state decided to phase out the sales tax on such energy.
“I don’t see how anybody can look at our record and say we are anti-business. But we do think the tax burden has shifted too much onto the homeowner and now it’s time to give them some relief,” he said.
Brian Anderson, president of the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce, said, “We appreciate that our county commissioners are looking at this in a holistic and strategic manner to make sure not only that they are providing quality services at the lowest possible cost but that revenue is being assessed in a fair and equitable manner. We ask only that everyone who is benefiting from those services pay adequately for them.
“We believe our county officials, and our city officials as well, are dedicated to keeping this community an attractive place to do business and to keeping us competitive with other communities.”