LAWRENCEVILLE -- Officials from several of Gwinnett's cities were schooled Tuesday on a potential energy excise tax to be levied on local manufacturers, a legal necessity as county commissioners begin to weigh their decision on the matter.
A law recently adopted by the General Assembly would give manufacturers a break on state and local sales taxes on energy resources, including electricity, natural gas, oil and other types of fuel. A phase out of the taxes will begin next year and be complete in 2016.
Legislators, however, also agreed to allow counties and cities to impose an excise tax on energy equal to the amount of money lost in local sales taxes, if they so choose. That's what Tuesday's briefing by Commissioner Chairwoman Charlotte Nash and county chief financial officer Aaron Bovos was all about.
"We can't really argue with the intent," Nash said to a crowd that included representatives from the cities of Auburn, Lawrenceville, Lilburn, Peachtree Corners, Snellville, Sugar Hill and Suwanee.
"The quandary that the energy excise tax puts us in," Nash added, "is not knowing what the real impact will be on the county and on individual cities within the county."
If implemented, the tax would include a total 2 percent counter-hike on manufacturers' energy bills, made up of individual 1 percent special purpose local option sales taxes -- one for a general SPLOST, the other an education SPLOST.
Manufacturers currently pay 6 percent sales taxes on such bills. The 4 cents per dollar that now go to the state are being eliminated.
Individual cities will have the opportunity to enter into intergovernmental agreements (IGA) to collect their portion of the new taxes, even prior to the county's approval of the tax. Cities must submit their IGAs by Oct. 27, while the Board of Commissioners must make a decision by Nov. 27.
The decision will be a difficult one, officials said, simply because there's no easy way of telling how significantly the tax might change revenue or affect business development.
"We have no way to tell you what the impact of the revenue is at this point," Bovos said.
Tuesday's meeting -- to which all cities were invited -- was necessary for the county to keep its options open. Nash said she believed the county must accept the uncertain hand it's been dealt and move forward with the tax.
"I'm scared of a budget hole," she said, "but I've got to convince at least two more commissioners."