Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How Easy is it for the New City to Raise Taxes?

The Yes-folk point to the charter provision that requires a referendum in order to increase property taxes or add services not already reserved in the charter.  But, it is all too easy to put issues on a ballot in an “off-year” election year and have them pass with very few votes. 

For example, earlier this year Charlotte Nash was elected to the Gwinnett County Commission to complete the term vacated by the disgraced Charles Bannister.  It was an "off-year" election. There are 155 precincts in Gwinnett County. Historically, the precinct with the highest turnout has been the one at Peachtree Corners Baptist Church.  Charlotte Nash won 51% of the vote at that precinct, and she only had 74 votes.  I'll type it again in case you thought it was a typo- 74 votes.  The other three challengers on the ballot had 72 votes between them.  Of 2000 voters registered to that precinct, only 151 (less than 8%) turned out to vote.  If Peachtree Corners becomes a city, there will be an estimated 21,000 voters in PC.  If there is an off-year election to add services and/ or raise taxes, and only 8% of the voters turnout, all it would take is for 850 people to vote yes, and the rest of us would be paying higher taxes.

When I bring this up, the Yes-folk scold me for lacking faith in my neighbors.  I love you guys, but I know how busy our lives are.  It is easy to miss these off-year votes.  This is especially true when the government desiring the tax increase can fund the spin on information and a get-out-the-supporter-vote effort.  Any opposition will have to be quickly organized and would have no funds to support it.

Posted By Ali