Houston County to vote on city’s tax allocation district plan

wcrenshaw@macon.comDecember 4, 2012 

PERRY -- The Houston County Board of Commissioners expects to decide at its next scheduled meeting whether to support Warner Robins’ effort to start a tax allocation district.

Five members of City Council and other city representatives were at the commission meeting Tuesday to discuss the initiative, which is aimed at revitalizing business properties along Watson Boulevard from Diggs Boulevard, which is just west of North Davis Drive, to Ga. 247.

The county’s approval is needed because the plan impacts property taxes. When properties in the district are improved, the increased tax revenues resulting from the increased value would go toward sidewalks, streets and other improvements to enhance the area.

The county would continue to get the taxes from the current value. Although comments from the commissioners seemed supportive of the idea, Chairman Tommy Stalnaker after the meeting wouldn’t speculate on how the board might vote. However, he noted it wouldn’t cost the county anything, and it would continue to get the same taxes it is getting now.

“I personally support it,” he said.

The tax allocation district is separate from the land bank initiative city officials discussed at the last county commission meeting. The tax allocation district is targeted to commercial areas, where the land bank is aimed at improving abandoned residential properties.

While the land bank proposal is only being considered by the city, Warner Robins is ready to go forward with the tax allocation district and asked the commissioners to vote on it before the end of the year.

Kevin Brown, an attorney working with the city on the proposal, said bonds may be used to spur property improvement, but the county would have no liability.

“The only thing the commissioners would be doing is allowing for the growth of the digest to pay for improvements in the area,” he said.

Commissioner Tom McMichael said he sees an important economic benefit to improving the tax allocation district area. He noted cutbacks by the Department of Defense could impact Robins Air Force Base.

“Anything we can do to enhance that area around the base will help us as far as the DoD is concerned,” he said. “That’s critical for us right now.”

Councilman Mike Daley said the city has carefully considered the plan.

“I think we’ve got this to a workable solution,” Daley said. “We are not trying to bite off more than we can chew. We welcome your support in this process.”

In the public comments portion of the meeting, one resident expressed skepticism of the idea.

“I would urge the county commission to walk slowly and look because still water runs awfully deep,” said Walton Wood. “I don’t care what anyone says, it’s going to affect my tax dollars and your tax dollars.”

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725..

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