Rental car tax to help fund field
Commission also approves bonds for Braves stadium

LAWRENCEVILLE - A tax on rental cars will help fund Gwinnett's planned baseball stadium, commissioners agreed Tuesday.

The board also approved an administrative agreement to give $7 million from the county's recreation tax and sell $33 million in bonds to build the stadium for the AAA Gwinnett Braves, which was announced last week.

An estimated $600,000 in annual revenue from the 3 percent rental car tax will go toward paying off the bonds.

Other expected revenues are a $250,000 rental fee from the Braves organization, at least $400,000 from a $1 per ticket fee and money from selling the stadium's naming rights and from a parking fee.

"As we've seen from the Arena (at Gwinnett Center), these facilities do have a great potential for providing revenue for the county," said Commissioner Lorraine Green, directing the county staff to earmark any extra revenues to replenish the recreation fund.

Commissioners agreed last week to pay $5 million from that fund for land on Buford Drive, just south of Rock Springs Road near the Mall of Georgia.

"Eventually, the taxpayers will have their investment returned to them," Green said.

On April 1, Gwinnett will become the 11th jurisdiction in Georgia to impose the rental tax, which must be earmarked for a convention center, stadium, arena or similar venture. Those jurisdictions include DeKalb County and the cities of Atlanta, Marietta and Lawrenceville.

There are currently 28 car rental agencies in unincorporated Gwinnett County, according to Finance Director Lisa Johnsa.

Ray Miller, a retired businessman who used to own a van rental agency, said the tax burden likely would not be felt by tourists.

"You have to get the revenue somehow," he said after commissioners approved the tax. "The rental car industry is very easy to tax, but the truth of the matter is the rental car tax will affect people who get cars for insurance replacement purposes. ... It'll be local people."

Miller, though, said he is excited to see the Gwinnett Braves play, when the stadium opens in April 2009.

"I think it's wonderful," he said. "I think it's a great idea, and I think it will probably succeed."