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Video: Fire District Is a Tax, Not a Fee

"It is now time to develop and consider plan B," Canton Mayor Gene Hobgood said.

Update, 5 a.m. Friday

Original report, 10 a.m. Thursday

When , he said he would seek an opinion from Attorney General Sam Olens' office on the legality of implementing the measure.

Some in the city thought that the district should be considered a fee rather than a tax because it is intended to help the city meet some of its long-term fire service needs.

Hobgood and the learned the findings Monday in the form of an email from city attorney Bobby Dyer. Hobgood shared them with local media outlets Wednesday, a little more than a month after the council voted Aug. 2 to  the  and less than 24 hours after the to begin the process of setting the millage rate for the district.

"The fire district tax would be considered a tax," Hobgood said. "Not a fee."

And because it is a tax, "it cannot be collected in 2012 because the fire district is really a new tax district which had to be in existence as of Jan. 1 in order to collect the taxes this year," he said. "And ... the senior tax exemption would apply."

Hobgood, who declined to release the email from Dyer because of attorney-client privilege, said the courtesy review from the attorney general's office "certainly validates" his July 26 veto.

"My goal as mayor has been to protect the city from costly lawsuits or any other harmful events," he said.

"Our citizens really should not be penalized for some poor planning on our part. Therefore, I think we must go back to the drawing board and decide how to provide this essential service at the most economical cost to our citizens."

Council member Glen Cummins, one of only two council members who attended the press conference, said that he has another plan in which "the cost to construct and service the debt ... will cost the average residential owner a net of $1 a month to build these two required fire stations."

Beyond that, Cummins said he wasn't ready to discuss the plan. 

First, he said, the city needs to repeal the fire district ordinance.

"It is my intention to make the motion," Cummins said.

He said he can't make the motion at tonight's council meeting because it is a work session. A vote can't be taken at work sessions unless it is an emergency.

Hooky Huffman, the other council member at Wednesday's press conference, said he doesn't "see at this particular time where it calls for an emergency.

"We can keep it intact and do nothing with it and it just lies there. And then after the plan is developed, whatever the next plan B will be, and if it calls in the best interest to get rid of the district, then we'll get rid of the district."

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hope September 06, 2012 at 02:43 PM
"My goal as mayor has been to protect the city from costly lawsuits or any other harmful events," he said...this statement literally made me laugh out loud. Your staff does a fine job at running up our legal bills. Clean house and hire some intelligent people!
Etowahwah September 06, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Hope, it is our City Manager, not the Mayor's staff, that causes our legal bills to rise. Combined with his mismanagement of our city affairs and the Council's inability to terminate him, we are truly in a laughable situation. I agree with cleaning house, but it needs to start with the City Manager and the amateur City Council members!

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