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Commissioners OK new excise tax

Posted: March 23, 2013 - 11:04pm
Photo by Jim Blaylock  The Columbia County Employee of the Month, Mike Wilson from Broadband Utility, was joined by his wife Sharon and his son Lincoln, 7, as he was recognized by commissioner Bill Morris during the commission meeting on Tuesday, March 18.
Photo by Jim Blaylock The Columbia County Employee of the Month, Mike Wilson from Broadband Utility, was joined by his wife Sharon and his son Lincoln, 7, as he was recognized by commissioner Bill Morris during the commission meeting on Tuesday, March 18.

Columbia County is one step closer to charging manufacturers an excise tax on energy use after the first reading on a new ordinance Tuesday.

With unanimous approval, the ordinance will go into effect if approved after second reading at the commissioners’ March 26 meeting.

The new tax replaces the 2 percent portion of county sales taxes taken away when the state Legislature last year exempted manufacturing facilities from charging sales tax on energy used in manufacturing.

The law allowed counties to impose the excise tax to replace the local portion of the sales tax revenue.

“We certainly don’t disagree with the state’s effort to improve economic development,” said County Commission Chairman Ron Cross. “The problem is that this was dictated by the state with no input from the counties,” in which each – along with their cities – stood to lose millions in revenue.

The excise tax, which will be collected by Georgia Power Co. and remitted to the county, is expected to replace as much as $250,000 per year lost in the state cut to the county’s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or SPLOST, and the Local Option Sales Tax, or LOST, both of which are shared with Harlem and Grovetown, said Columbia County Administrator Scott Johnson.

The 1-percent Education SPLOST wasn’t affected by the state cuts.

After the new 2-percent tax goes into effect, manufacturers in the county still will be exempt from the 4 percent state sales tax.

Also Tuesday, commissioners declined to take action in support of Happy Tails Rescue, the animal rescue group closed last week after its founder signed a consent order with the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

The state agency found numerous sanitation and animal documentation problems that went uncorrected during a seven-month period starting July 2012, and in February the owner, Barbara Gleitsmann, agreed to the state’s ordering shutting the rescue down for a year.

Supporters of Happy Tails rallied before the meeting, and Gleitsmann spoke during the session to highlight Happy Tails’ accomplishments and to ask commissioners for their support in an effort to encourage sterilization of animals.

Cross expressed sympathy for the closed group, but noted that Department of Agriculture inspectors were performing their duties in closing down the rescue.

“We all operate under rules,” he said. “We all have to answer to something.”

Cross offered other commissioners the opportunity to make a motion on behalf of Happy Tails, and none did.

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