State Rep. Robert Dickey, R-Musella, filed a simple one-page bill Tuesday, co-sponsored by Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon and Susan Holmes, R- Monticello, that would have the opposite effect of what they intend. The purpose of his bill was to bring the border dispute between Macon-Bibb County and Monroe County to resolution, something that has eluded the two parties since 2004 when Bass Pro Shops decided to build on what was then inside the undisputed boundaries of Bibb County.
This legislative effort however, is grossly one-sided. It puts all the onus on Macon-Bibb County or any other county that finds itself in a similar position and none on Monroe County or any other county that disputes a county boundary. House Bill 436 would, if passed by both the House and Senate and signed by the governor, place “all ad valorem property taxes and all sales and use taxes levied on and collected from the area in dispute between the counties” into an escrow account, “until a final resolution of the boundary line dispute. The funds shall then be paid to the county in which the disputed property is determined to be located or as the counties involved in the dispute may mutually agree.”
Why should the Macon-Bibb County government be robbed of resources, particularly when the entire scope of the border between the two counties has yet to be fully adjudicated? This dispute has already been the subject of hearings, courtrooms and two visits to the Georgia Supreme Court. Secretary of State Brian Kemp will hold, what hopes to be a final hearing, in May. Why would our legislators want to circumvent the process now? They should let it run its course without interference. Even if Kemp rules in Monroe County’s favor there are still questions that need answers, such as, how does Monroe County pay Macon-Bibb back for the millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements that helped attract Bass Pro Shops to that area?
So what happens in the meantime? This dispute with our northern neighbor has been going on for 13 years. It has cost Macon-Bibb County $650,000 and Monroe County about $2 million. If you’ll remember, this is not a fight Bibb County wanted. In fact, at its very beginning, a deal was struck between then Bibb Commission Chairman Charlie Bishop and Monroe Commission Chairman Harold Carlisle to leave the line alone. Unfortunately, Carlisle’s board didn’t go along and here we are.
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This legislation has other problems, too. It would impact special purpose local option sales tax collections, E-LOST collections and school taxes.
It will be interesting to hear the position of the Association County Commissioners of Georgia on this piece of legislation, because while the target is Macon-Bibb and Monroe, it would apply to every county in the state, and that might make more than a few legislators under the Gold Dome uncomfortable, as it should, and this effort could die under its own weight.
A better course would be to back up, withdraw the bill and let the process continue unencumbered. After more than a decade, a few more months won’t hurt anyone.