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County considers tax abatement policy

Board will move forward with steering committee



FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Forsyth County is in the hunt for high-income, low-impact commercial growth. To that end, the Board of Commissioners decided at its Feb.21 meeting to form a steering committee to explore its policies relating to economic incentives, including tax abatements.

The board expects to hear recommendations within the next 30 to 60 days.

Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce President James McCoy said the chamber, along with the county and the county development authority want to increase the commercial tax base.

“This reduces the burden on residential taxpayers and risks,” he said. “It brings more high-income, low-impact employers to Forsyth County. It’s within the county ordinances and has many benefits to the citizens of Forsyth County.”

Key success factors for the project include an even more proactive private-public partnership involving the county, development authority, chamber and state, he said.

The development authority would be a financing mechanism limited to tax abatement, according to chamber Chairman David Seago.

Development authorities in Georgia develop land for business parks, set up industrial revenue bonds and initiate infrastructure upgrades and improvements, he said. The Forsyth Development Authority would have an annual budget of $40,000 and would use the revenue from bonds for title tax abatements.

McCoy said the county needs to take steps to draw business. Those steps need to be defined, tracked and reported, he said. The improved plan is set for presentation this month to an executive session.

“Currently there’s an unsustainable gap,” McCoy said. “The average homeowner pays $1,441.07 in property taxes annually. The average homeowner costs $2,904.16 in services annually. There’s a $1,463.09 gap per household.”

The chamber also gave an analysis of Forsyth facts.

A breakdown of residents and where they work showed 48,096 employees commuting to the county and 66,251 residents commuting out of the county. There are roughly 21,674 employees that live and work in the county.

The Forsyth County tax digest from 2005 to 2015 showed in 2005, 81 percent of property taxes were residential, while 18 percent was commercial. In 2015, commercial rose to 27 percent of the total tax digest, while residential accounted for 72 percent.

Robert Long, vice president for Economic Development at the chamber, said the county received $148.4 million in new capital investment and 828 new jobs last year.

“In 2016, the chamber self-generated 92 percent of our 79 projects,” Long said. “These can be from the company contacting us directly, to a site selection consultant or realtor contacting us. We have to vet these leads to see if there is really a project before we log them in.”

Other leads were generated by the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Metro Atlanta Chamber and Georgia Power, he said.

“In 2016, 63 percent of our 79 projects were attraction versus expansion or retention,” Long said. “Attraction means that this project would be new to Forsyth County. This would include a project relocating from somewhere else in Georgia. Attraction, however, made up only 37 percent of our announcements last year. Thus, attraction makes up a larger percentage of the pipeline, but is harder to win.”

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