CUMMING - Forsyth County is one step closer to implementing an energy excise tax on manufacturers.
Commissioners held a public hearing and first reading of an ordinance to collect the tax Thursday, the same tax the state is phasing out on Jan. 1 at the urging of Gov. Nathan Deal who says it makes Georgia less competitive in attracting new business.
County commissioners signed an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with the city of Cumming two months ago, paving the way for the county to collect the tax.
County Attorney Ken Jarrard said holding a public hearing after an IGA has been signed may seem implausible.
"But it is the way the statute is written. We met with the city of Cumming to decide if we both want to impose the tax. The IGA was a manifestation of that agreement," he said.
The ordinance is the legal mechanism that authorizes collection of the tax, and two public hearings are required before an ordinance can be adopted. The second public hearing is still two weeks away and two commissioners, Patrick Bell and Todd Levent, have said they are leaning against adopting the ordinance.
Bell said he strongly opposes the ordinance and Levent said he wants more information, but right now is considering voting no.
"They can still vote their conscience the way they choose to," Jarrard said. "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 the ordinance is approved on Dec. 20, Jarrard said, "The board next year can undo it at any time and get out of the tax business."
Bell will be leaving the board at the end of the year, to be replaced by commissioner-elect Cindy Mills.