Forsyth County Commissioners held a public hearing and first reading Thursday of an ordinance to collect an energy tax on manufacturers, the same tax the state is phasing out on Jan. 1 at the urging of Gov. Nathan Deal.
Deal says the tax is a barrier to attracting new manufacturing business. But when state lawmakers agreed to reduce the tax by 25 percent each year for the next four years, they left the door open for local governments to make their own decision whether or not to collect the tax.
Forsyth County Commissioners were quick to rush through the door, signing an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with the city of Cumming two months ago to implement the tax.
In order for the IGA to take effect, however, the county is required to pass an ordinance which, in turn, requires two public hearings. The second public hearing is set for Dec. 20.
Despite the fact the county has signed the IGA, some commissioners are beginning to wonder if the tax is a good thing.
District 3 Commissioner Todd Levent said earlier this week he wants more information but is leaning toward voting against the tax. District 4 Commissioner Patrick Bell said he has opposed the tax from the beginning.
"They can still vote their conscience the way they choose to," Forsyth County Attorney Ken Jarrard said Thursday. "But they need to be reminded of their obligation under the contract. It's up to them what they choose to do, but they have already agreed to implement this."
Even if commissioners do approve the ordinance, it is still not on solid footing.
"The board next year can undo it at any time and get out of the tax business," Jarrard said.
Bell will be leaving the board at the end of the year, to be replaced by and was unopposed in last month's general election.