The county commission may be interested in taking another shot at increasing the local option sales tax here from 1.50% to the maximum of 2.75%, but in order to do it, the public would have to approve it by a majority vote in a public referendum.
County Mayor Mike Foster addressed the issue with the county commission Monday night but no action was taken to initiate another referendum
The first referendum to adopt the increase failed at the polls last August by 252 votes, losing 1,898 to 1,646.
But County Mayor Mike Foster says some people have since had reservations about voting against it.
Foster says if a referendum is held and passes, the county commission will reduce the property tax rate by some amount. The commission, last September, raised the property tax rate by 39 cents to $1.90 per $100 of assessed value. \"We've had a couple of work sessions to talk about it and I think the consensus of the commission is they would like to pass the sales tax referendum in order to take part of the property tax back off of what was put on (in September). If it is proposed, all of the commission would sign an agreement to do that (vote to reduce the property tax) and publish it in the local newspapers. They want people to know this is not smoke and mirrors.\"
Foster says it's not known yet how much extra revenue would be generated from the additional sales tax, but it should be significant with tourist attractions like Center Hill Lake and the Fiddler's Jamboree and new retail outlets like Wal-Mart. \"It's an unknown as to how much extra revenue the new retail outlets are going to bring in because you don't know how much it's going to impact negatively on something else so the first year will really be just a guess.\"
Foster says if the local option sales tax is increased, the county will realize a greater tax benefit from the tourist dollars that are spent here.\" It only makes sense to pass some of that (increased sales tax) on to the tourists and let them pay their part because we also have to provide to them law enforcement and EMS services and road upkeep while they're here. We get a lot of benefit from tourists and we appreciate that but they should shoulder part of the tax load rather than it being all on property owners.\"
According to Foster, taxes are still lower in DeKalb County than any other county in the state. He says DeKalb and Johnson County have the lowest local option sales taxes, DeKalb County is still among the lowest in property taxes, and there is no wheel tax here.
If a second referendum is held this spring, the tax hike could take effect with the 2007-2008 budget year, July 1st.