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HOST Explained at Forum, Draws Criticism

Although Chairman Buzz Ahrens and other officials explained the potential benefits of the 1% sales tax, opponents still believe it is a double tax that will hurt many Cherokee residents.

Local and state officials hosted an open forum on Cherokee County's proposed 1% HOST tax which will be voted on during the Nov. 6 election at the Cherokee Conference Center Tuesday morning.

Cherokee Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens gave the presentation on the proposed tax, and was supported by Clint Mueller, Legislative Director of the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, an non-profit instrument of county government.

Ahrens confirmed that if the homestead exemption and sales tax are approved (and both must be approved for the measure to take effect), all of the proceeds from the tax will go directly towards easing the property tax burden of Cherokee County property owners.

The tax will allow the county to phase out Maintenance and Operations (M&O) fees on property tax bills, with the sales tax recovering the lost income. As this tax would be collected monthly as opposed to the once-yearly property tax, Cherokee County would have more cash flow flexibility and could curtail its use of long-term tax anticipation notes.

If the referendum passes on Nov. 6, the sales tax would go into effect on April 1, 2013. The Cherokee Board of Commissioners expanded upon the spirit of the proposed tax, and has authorized the county to credit property tax bills with already-collected HOST funds in 2013 and 2014 to lessen the overall property tax burden before the legally-mandated start date of 2015.

Critics of the proposed tax have argued that HOST programs in Rockdale and DeKalb counties, the only other counties in the state with HOST, are mired in legal difficulties and have allowed governments to double-dip on taxing their citizens.

Do you support the proposed HOST referendum? Why or why not? Tell us in the comments!

Both counties use a different revenue distribution model than the proposed Cherokee plan; 80 percent of their HOST revenue goes to property tax relief while the remainder is used on capital projects.

Other critics have made the argument that this proposed sales tax does more to hurt Cherokee residents who do not own property. For example, a single mother who is renting her home would have a greater tax burden than she does under the current system. Mueller conceded that it would be in the woman's best interest to vote against the referendum.

Cherokee property owner and Republican Robert Chambers said that he would be voting against the referendum, although it would significantly ease his tax burden. He felt that it would be unfair to benefit from a program that would cause less fortunate people to suffer. 

"It's policies like these that are driving people away from the Republicans and towards the Democrats," Chambers said.

There is a second forum upcoming to discuss this referendum. It will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 4 at the Chambers at City Center, located at 8534 Main St. in downtown Woodstock. 

Frank Jones September 27, 2012 at 03:00 PM
I do not support the HOST tax for the following reasons: 1. The law requires only 80% be used to offset M&O property taxes and while that Commissioners have passed a resolution to use 100% to offset taxes, they can easily pass another resolution taking the amount back to 80%. 2. The law requires that taxpayers receive the 1st property tax break in 2015. The Commissioners are indicating that they'll accelerate the tax break into 2013 and 2014, but they can easily change their minds. 3. Only two counties have HOST...If it's so good, why don't all counties have HOST? 4. The M&O milage rate is currently 5.825 per thousand but if you look at both Dekalb and Rockdale, their milage rates are 19.4 and 16.9 per thousand. The Commissioners could easily increase the M&O milage rate if HOST passes, negating the "benefit". 5. The county will be receiving additional tax money beginning March 2013 when it starts collecting its share of the 7% vehicle registration fees on all private party used vehicle sales. The county will also be receiving an additional 1% tax money on new vehicle sales as the current vehicle 6% sales tax on new vehicles is replaced with a 7% vehicle registration fee. 8. The county commissioners (Bosch, Ahrens, Johnston, & Hubbard) already have a poor track record of financial management...Can you say BOBO? 9. The primary beneficiaries of HOST will be landlords & land owners. Renters will simply see a 1% tax increase. Everyone else will see a net increase.

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