A state lawmaker said he prefers that Macon-Bibb County and the school board come to an agreement before any legislation moves forward on a potential new sales tax.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Telegraph
A consensus that the school board is behind Macon-Bibb's efforts would generate more support for any legislation, said state Rep. Bubber Epps, R-Dry Branch, who represents much of Bibb County.
Legislators want to help if a local government wants it, but they don't want to get in the middle of a local debate, he said. Epps said he's heard concerns about "equalization."
That's a grant that the state gives to some school systems if the property wealth in a district is especially low.
Epps said that before the legislative session, lawmakers encouraged the county and the school system to put their heads together to find common ground.
“I think the delegation wants to be of assistance where it can be, but we don’t want to get in the middle of local issues that need to be handled by local governments. I certainly don’t. If our input is needed, then I’d like to see agreement kind of coalesce on a local level before we have to take any action on the state level," he said.
If it's approved, half of the new tax would be used to roll back property taxes for county residents.
There would also be a partial "freeze" on property values on residences where the owner has a homestead exemption. The value the homeowner is taxed on could not change more than 2 percent within a year.
Even if the legislation passes through the Legislature, Macon-Bibb officials would have to sign off on adding it to the November election ballot, meaning residents would have the final say so on the extra penny of tax on the dollar.
State Rep. Miram Paris, D-Macon, said she needs more detail on the proposal before she decides, though she does like the fact that a referendum puts the decision in the hands of voters.
"It's not legislators imposing a tax on the people," she said.
The OLOST was expected to be a topic of discussion at a meeting of lawmakers and Bibb County officials on Wednesday.
Bibb County Board of Education President Daryl Morton said the school board isn't a participant in the proposed OLOST, nor have board members heard any presentation about it.
He said that from his perspective, any time a government entity asks the public for more money, it should be clear where the money will be spent.
Mayor Robert Reichert has said Macon-Bibb leaders want to make the school board feel comfortable about a new tax.
The revenue from the tax would go to Macon-Bibb government operations, but there could be a way to make the school district "whole" through payment in lieu of taxes, also known as PILOT.
Typically, PILOT payments are distributed among local governmental entities in proportion to their respective millage rates.
"If we roll our millage rate back, then that will give more of our PILOT payments to the Board of Education," Reichert said at a Jan. 9 commission meeting.
The new tax could generate upwards of $26 million in annual revenue for a county government that has dealt with deficits the last several years.