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Groups to probe tax solutions
County and state to look at new ways of funding
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Effingham County’s state lawmakers have backed resolutions that call for the county to study its current tax structure.

The measures call for a study group to look at ways to fund governmental operations

“I think it’s at least a start,” county commission Chairwoman Verna Phillips said. “We have to have a solution. People can’t be taxed out of their homes.”

Under SR 682, Sen. Jack Hill (R-Reidsville) urged the county to consider other revenue sources, such as impact fees, in light of Effingham’s rapid growth and development.

SR 682 states “many long-time citizens of this county have seen their property taxes increase significantly, not as a result of any action on their part, but due to growth and development and the increased property values that are associated with such growth and development.”

The resolution calls for homestead exemptions to offset the property taxes and for a community review of the tax structure and revenue streams for local government.

SR 682 and a companion measure in the House of Representatives, HR 955, passed their respective chambers April 20.

“We wanted to look at all the different options to raise revenues for governments,” state Rep. Jon Burns (R-Newington) said, “and what’s fair and equitable for all the people. It’s not just Effingham, but statewide issues that affect Effingham County.”

State lawmakers are expected to review tax structures across the board.

Arthur Laffer, creator of the supply-side economic theory that President Reagan’s administration espoused more than 25 years ago, blasted Georgia’s reliance on property tax in an interview earlier this month with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, calling it “arcane and inefficient.” Laffer is backing a mix of income and sales taxes as a proposal to House Speaker Glenn Richardson.

Richardson, along with most of the Republican House leadership, pushed HR 900 through the lower chamber last session. The resolution calls for an amendment to the state Constitution for a comprehensive rewrite of the state’s tax laws, including abolishing most state and local taxes. It also calls to establish what is being known as the fair tax.

“Everything is up for discussion,” Burns said. “I appreciate the Speaker taking a look at being innovative.”

Each resolution calls for a study committee to be made up of two members appointed by Sen. Hill and Reps. Burns and Buddy Carter (R-Pooler), one member appointed by the county commissioners, another by the school board and one each appointed by Guyton, Rincon and Springfield city councils. Hill, Burns and Carter would serve as ex-officio members.

“I like the idea,” Carter said. “I think it’s good.”

Phillips said she believes more local taxpayers need to be a part of the committees.

“I’m not happy about that committee being formed,” Commissioner Hubert Sapp said, because it doesn’t include taxpayers.

County Administrator Ed Williams pointed out there is room for appointments of private taxpayers to serve on the committee.

The proposed committee will meet not more than five times and any findings or recommendations, along with suggestions for proposed laws, are to be made before Dec. 31.

“I’ve been in the legislature for three years, and I’ve introduced legislation for tax relief of Effingham County for three years,” Carter said. “I can appreciate taking a cautious, conservative approach. I don’t want to do anything that handcuffs local governments.”

Land values in south Effingham County have been on the rise over the last decade as more people move in.

“Now, it’s starting to impact northern Effingham County as well,” Carter said.

Burns said it may be time to look at increased homestead exemptions for senior citizens and to take a look at the further use of sales taxes.

“It’s been a goal of mine for a number of years,” he said. “The collection of sales taxes directly reduces the ad valorem tax we pay. One thing I want to look at it is the makeup of Effingham County and our tax base and giving tax relief.”

Carter said Effingham County chief appraiser Janis Bevill warned the legislative delegation that assessments could be higher this year. He said he has had complaints about taxes since he took office three years ago.

“I have been inundated with calls,” he said. “But the first two years are nothing compared to this year.”