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Service settlement price tag $31 million for county

What Others Are Saying

Gwinnett Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash: “Countless hours and a lot of hard work have gone into reaching this agreement. The issues involved in funding and operating a major metropolitan county with 15 cities are incredibly complex. I would like to thank everyone who had a role in resolving these issues — all of the mayors, council members and city staff, as well as our district commissioners and county staff. Without their commitment to resolving these issues, a settlement could not have been reached.”

Auburn Mayor Linda Blechinger: “With recent issues that have developed in Gwinnett, all of the officials felt it was critical that elected leaders should decide this case — not the court ... All Gwinnett residential and business taxpayers are impacted by this agreement and benefit from its conclusion.”

Buford Commission Chairman Phillip Beard: “The cities and the county worked together for this solution. We are ready to turn the page on the dispute and begin 2012 by working together on one common goal — to make our cities and county the best place to live, work, play and operate a business, not only in the metro Atlanta region but across the country.”

Dacula Mayor Jimmy Wilbanks: “The funding issues were the most difficult to resolve ... The City of Dacula voted for the proposed settlement because of the county’s agreement to address tax equity. We have taken steps in the right direction on taxation.”

Duluth Mayor Nancy Harris: “All of our Gwinnett mayors, key city officials and staff worked hard through mediation, trial proceedings and final negotiations to resolve the issues.”

Grayson Mayor Jim Hinkle: “Using the agreement’s special tax district approach allowed us to apply taxes to those that were receiving the services.”

Lawrenceville Mayor Judy Jordan-Johnson: “There were fundamental issues the Lawrenceville City Council required for approval and we and the other cities achieved these goals by working together. Elected officials all stepped up to do what’s right and legal for both city and county taxpayers.

Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson: “An agreement has been reached. The parties have worked continuously since the court’s final ruling in October 2011 by addressing the county’s unique budgeting and service provision issues. The court provided clarity to the parties that allowed us to resolve these differences. In the last two weeks both sides have come together to address the remaining tax equity and service issue disputes.”

Snellville Mayor Kelly Kautz: “This is a great day for not just the citizens of Snellville but all of the citizens of Gwinnett County. I would like to commend Mayors Bucky Johnson and Linda Blechinger and Chairwoman Nash for their tireless efforts in bringing all parties to a resolution in this matter. I would also like to thank our Chief of Police Roy Whitehead whose testimony and research was instrumental throughout this process. Hopefully today will be a new beginning for the cities and county to continue working as one for the betterment of our community as a whole.”

LAWRENCEVILLE — Commissioners and council members across Gwinnett approved a deal that could end a three-year-long service delivery dispute between the county government and 15 cities.

The settlement has Gwinnett paying $31 million to local governments and configuring special service districts that could lower taxes for some city residents.

Last year, a judge ruled on the dispute, where city officials hoped to get a break on county property taxes, since residents were paying city taxes for the same service. But county officials filed appeals, and settlement negotiations began anew.

“The court provided clarity to the parties that allowed us to resolve these differences,” Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson said. “In the last two weeks both sides have come together to address the remaining tax equity and service issue disputes.”

Duluth Mayor Nancy Harris added: “All of our Gwinnett mayors, key city officials and staff worked hard through mediation, trial proceedings and final negotiations to resolve the issues.”

As part of the deal, commissioners approved intergovernmental agreements involving police, fire, 911 and other services. They also adopted service districts for police, fire and emergency services, Loganville emergency services and development and enforcement.

“Countless hours and a lot of hard work have gone into reaching this agreement,” said Chairwoman Charlotte Nash, who restarted the negotiations when she was elected last year. “The issues involved in funding and operating a major metropolitan county with 15 cities are incredibly complex. I would like to thank everyone who had a role in resolving these issues – all of the mayors, council members and city staff, as well as our district commissioners and county staff. Without their commitment to resolving these issues, a settlement could not have been reached.”

The payment documents reveal that the county agreed to pay a total of $31 million over the next several years.

About $5.5 million total will go to cities with police departments in 2012, plus $1.5 million a year for seven years.

All of the cities will receive another $2.2 million total this year and nearly $1 million for the next seven years in the settlement.

About $820,000 will be given to the Loganville EMS fund to compensate for city residents who paid for fire services in the county even though the city has its own fire department.

The money, Nash said, is coming from funds left over from 2011.

The service districts will not impact 2012 taxes, but officials are likely to set new rates for the districts in 2013.

Nash declined to talk about the negotiations, since local cities still have to make decisions and a judge must sign off on settlement before it becomes official.

If the judge accepts the consent order, the 15 municipalities and Gwinnett would regain their qualified local government status, which would give them access to state loans, grants and permits, including allowing radar detection to be used again for speed enforcement.

“There is no one totally satisfied with it. That is the definition of what a compromise is,” Nash said. “There was a determination that we had to find a way to settle it.”

The settlement could finally mean resolution in an issue that has hung over officials for years.

“The cities and the county worked together for this solution,” Buford Commission Chairman Philip Beard said. “We are ready to turn the page on the dispute and begin 2012 by working together on one common goal — to make our cities and county the best place to live, work, play and operate a business, not only in the metro Atlanta region but across the country.”

Comments

jack 2 years, 10 months ago

Guess the lawyers milked this cash cow into dehydration. Let's see how long it takes the soon-to-be-radar/laser-certified GC Police Dept. to recoup the 25 mil. I'm guessing eight months.

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Mack711 2 years, 10 months ago

It will not take long for the cities to recoup the lost radar money espically in Norcross Duluth and Suwanee. They are chomping at the bit to get out and milk the cash radar guns.

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R 2 years, 10 months ago

The impact to tax rates put off till 2013 AFTER the general elections is the “real“ compromise.

But since this requirement has actually been in default a couple years prior to the build of Gwinnet Stadium, it’s LONG overdue. (We defaulted long before the court case was filed, the state just flat ran out of extensions it could issue the county)

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HonestIngine 2 years, 10 months ago

Hey, is there any money left for Peachtree Corners! We're the largest city in the County and we want our fair share.....

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R 2 years, 10 months ago

Peachtree Corners You are the biggest! Need an airfield?

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HonestIngine 2 years, 10 months ago

Yea, Feel your pain...We all need to form a watchdog committee for the County...to report all the abuse, spending, and elected officials (private deals)... http://www.peachtreecornersfacts.com/index_files/Page519.htm That's the website established in Ptree Corners... We need this county wide...

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Cleanupguy 2 years, 10 months ago

PTC could probably use some extra money - they have LOTS more government (HOA's, Super Duper HOA and City) than most of us now.

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R 2 years, 10 months ago

25 now up to 31 Million, I wonder what the actual cost in Gwinnett is if legal expenses to date are totaled and thrown on top? Another gift that just keeps on giving.

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economist 2 years, 10 months ago

The County got screwed and so did the taxpayers in the unincorporated areas of the county. If you live in a city, you just got a HUGE subsidy from the rest of us. You're welcome.

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economist 2 years, 10 months ago

"The money, Nash said, is coming from funds left over from 2011."

What? Funds left over? The general fund made $48M in 2011!! Original ending fund balance budget was $110M.....actual ending fund balance was $170M AFTER a $27M additional contribution to Pension/OPEB!! I suspect that there are other reserves socked away, so it was probably even better than that! Yet, no raises for county employees in sight!

http://www.gwinnettcounty.com/static/departments/financialservices/pdf/December%202011%20Monthly%20Report.pdf

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HonestIngine 2 years, 10 months ago

Yep, County accounting at its best...No wonder our kids SAT scores in math are low....LOL

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R 2 years, 10 months ago

One of those so called reserves is currently called the Trash Plan.

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Sentinel 2 years, 10 months ago

This entire fiasco has been a triumph of vanity and pettiness on both sides. The whole thing could have been settled for a total 3.5 million dollar payout two years ago, but one commissioner wouldn't agree because he was mad at one of the cities. The agreement specifically says the county police MAY NOT provide police services in the "police cities". Wait until the first big wreck at rush hour on I-85 which now has parts of the highway within the cities of Suwanee and Norcross and then we'll see how self-sufficient these city departments really are. Everyone got screwed in this deal, the city residents will just have to wait to feel the pain as the city budgets expand to pay for police services they're going to need.

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HonestIngine 2 years, 10 months ago

Yes, It's time for the People to set up a Watchdog Group..Bring Gwinnett County back to the Citizens, instead http://www.peachtreecornersfacts.com/index_files/Page519.htmof a few elected officials...

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Mack711 2 years, 10 months ago

Why not incorporate all cities in Gwinnett and make the whole county the city of Gwinnett. One police department, one fire department, and one cities servives department. You will lower taxes and stop duplicating services. If Jacksonville FL. can do it why can't we do it . Sure would make life easier and simpler. Lawyers may not like it but we sure would.

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pjm123 2 years, 9 months ago

I agree let's incorporate these cities and let the county handle everything. It works quite swimmingly in Columbus GA and Augusta GA. I really think that it stinks that I have to pay for some police department or fire department that will not be providing me a service.

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pjm123 2 years, 9 months ago

I dislike the fact that I will have to pay some peoples salaries that don't even work for me seeing as though I live outside of city limits. I agree with economist2 if you live in unincorporated Gwinnett when it comes to taxes you just got screwed!

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