The Whitfield County Board of Commissioners, by a 3-2 vote, increased the county’s property tax by 1 mill Thursday night. The commissioners who voted for the increase believe it is necessary because of the county’s precarious budget situation. Some even wanted to see a 2-mill increase. They did what they thought was in the best interests of the county.
But they missed an opportunity to build on discussions that have arisen during the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) renegotiation with city officials, which are expected to continue today with the help of an out-of-town mediator.
Both sides have tentatively agreed that the county will create special tax districts to fund the county fire department and the county’s share of the Dalton-Whitfield Joint Development Authority, the Dalton-Whitfield County Library and the Dalton-Whitfield Solid Waste Authority. The idea is that city taxpayers will no longer have to pay for services that primarily benefit residents outside the city.
But if that makes sense for next year and going forward, why should the commissioners approve a 1-mill increase this year that does not include the tax districts? Why should city taxpayers have to pay another year for services they don’t benefit from?
Mayor David Pennington made that point in a letter to the county in February, but to no avail. County officials said they must have time to make preparations for such a change.
During these challenging economic times, continuing to tax city residents for services they don’t receive is a double whammy that commissioners could have avoided if they had wanted to.