Commission will fight to control taxes

Editor's note: The following is a letter Commisoner Mike Beaudreau sent Rep. Bobby Reese and the Gwinnett legislative delegation.

First of all, thank you for your loyal service to Gwinnett County and the state of Georgia. I am writing to express my concerns over the tax reform legislation that has been under consideration during this session. I must tell you that it has been unsettling to watch the striking differences in the various proposals. It is good that the most negative proposals do now seem to be off the table, but what remains under consideration will likely be damaging.

While I certainly cannot speak for every jurisdiction of the state, Gwinnett County government has been steadfast in holding the line on property tax rate increases, and indeed has reduced our millage dramatically over the past decade. Furthermore, Gwinnett's homestead value offset exemption protects homeowners from 100 percent of the increases in market value (county taxes) as long as they remain in their home.

With our exemptions and rate reductions, many homeowners' tax bills for county services have declined over the past few years. For Gwinnett County government to be painted with a "taxes are out of control" brush is incorrect and indicates a lack of familiarity with what is going on.

If the legislature is determined to experiment, why not begin with your own revenues and cut the income tax? Or, what about a one-time state rebate to get our economy rolling? Don't make a decision that only shifts the burden to another level of government.

It is our job as commissioners to listen to input from our constituents and then make informed decisions as to the level of service desired by county citizens. It is clear that our citizens want more than merely the status quo. For the legislature to put us on a path where all local governments cannot even keep up with inflation in terms of service levels is probably unworkable in most, if not all, parts of Georgia. I can tell you for sure that it will hurt Gwinnett County.

While I may have only scratched the surface on some of the policy questions, the real point of my writing to you is to ask that you not do anything that strips away the decision-making capability of school boards, city councils and county commissioners. Do not cap our revenues or our ability to adjust millage rates. Please do not limit assessments to some artificial growth rate. Please do not enact some one-size-fits-all policy without first examining all the facts. Services are unfortunately not free, and we need to be able to respond to what is going on in our local areas.

The track the legislature is on will result in unintended outcomes. For example, speculative zoning requests will be encouraged. Why is this? Because over time, tax assessments will be artificially constrained and therefore become more level among properties. The service delivery cost impacts of land used will matter less and less as taxes converge toward a legislated middle ground.

I am very proud to be a fiscal conservative and have the voting record to back up that claim. I therefore cannot support any legislation that merely shifts the burden of decisions to local governments while restricting their ability to manage the needs of local communities.

You have heard this same message from local officials throughout the state, from your Gwinnett school and county officials, our chamber of commerce and our municipalities. I ask you to heed our voices. You are considering measures that I and many others believe will have lasting and detrimental impacts on our community.

Thank you for considering these ideas.

Mike Beaudreau is the District 3 commissioner for Gwinnett County. Contact him at 770-466-3504, mike@mikebeaudreau.com or www.mikebeaudreau.com.