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Posted on: July 18, 2022

Press Release: Taxpayers must fight county's extortive tactics

Tifton Georgia The Friendly City


July 18, 2022


Tifton: Taxpayers must fight county’s extortive tactics

Seeking leverage in lawsuits, commissioners wrongly threaten to let much-needed sales tax to expire


Seeking to gain leverage in a legal dispute between Tift County and the City of Tifton, county leaders are threatening policy changes that would dramatically decrease the tax revenues needed by all three cities in the county and lead to significant increases in property taxes, Tifton Mayor Julie Smith said at a news conference today.


“Rather than having an impartial court decide the merits of the claims between the city and county, the county has decided to use its powers under state law to hold the city hostage,” Smith said. “In response to the city’s good faith efforts to reach compromise of mutual benefit, the county has responded that if it doesn’t get its way, it will pursue policies that create mutual harm. It’s an attack on their own constituents, and the danger posed to the city by these threats leave us no option but to speak out.”


Both Tift County and the City of Tifton have filed lawsuits against each other. In a demand letter dated July 14 to “settle” the lawsuits, the county issued the city an ultimatum, saying if Tifton doesn’t agree to its terms it will unilaterally end the Local Option Sales Tax that rolls back property taxes for city and county residents.


“Tift County does not want the city’s claims to go before a court because the commissioners and the county manager know the claims have merit,” Smith said. “They are seeking to buy our silence with our own tax dollars. This is our response: No. The sales tax we all depend upon to keep property taxes low and provide city services has nothing to do with these lawsuits. We must return to the negotiating table immediately to agree on sales tax terms for the next decade as required under Georgia law.”


State law requires all counties in the state to renegotiate the allocation of sales tax dollars to accommodate population changes after the census every 10 years. If a new agreement isn’t reached, Tift’s Local Options Sales Tax would expire at the end of the year.


“This move, if carried out, would hurt the cities of Tift County but also the residents of unincorporated areas,” Smith said. “The county’s letter to us spells it out clearly: We have enough money in reserves to survive this revenue shortfall, but it would inflict serious pain on Tifton. Taxpayers need to know those $25 million in reserves that the county is talking about are the hard-earned dollars of the people of this county, including the people of Tifton. The county is using our own money against us, the people of the county, rather than returning excess dollars to taxpayers.”


The City of Tifton sent a letter to the Board of Commissioners and the cities of Omega and Ty Ty Friday requesting a meeting on July 25 at 5:30 p.m. at the Leroy Rogers Senior Center. ####

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