MACON, Ga. — Right now, people in Macon-Bibb County are voting on whether to tack on an extra penny to the current sales tax. It's called OLOST, standing for Other Local Option Sales Tax.
The tradeoff is getting a property tax cut in return, but some Republican state legislators say homeowners won't get that rollback until 2023. They say that's too long.
What is OLOST?
In May, Governor Brian Kemp signed a bill, allowing Macon-Bibb County to vote on whether to pay more in sales tax in return for cutting property taxes.
Essentially, OLOST will tack on a penny on the dollar on taxable items, and in turn, drop property taxes, so in instead of paying seven cents on the dollar, you'd pay eight cents.
That extra money would help the county fund the new pay scale for deputies and other first responders.
"Our community has said public safety is important for them. Public safety matters. We wanted to take that brave step to let them know we want to retain and recruit the very best people, but we have to have OLOST as a safety net every year," Miller said.
The OLOST is expected to trigger one of the largest property tax cuts in state history. Miller says the advantage to Bibb County homeowners is that majority of sales tax revenue collected is from visitors and workers who do not live in the county.
Why will homeowners have to wait until 2023 to see a tax cut?
The Bibb County commission voted to hold the OLOST referendum at the earliest date possible during an odd number year under state law. This year, that falls on Nov. 2.
However, Rep. Dale Washburn, who helped to write and pass the law through the General Assembly, says the county is holding the vote earlier than he and other lawmakers expected. He says because of this, means the county will collect money tax money than expected.
If OLOST passes, Bibb County would see that sales tax increase in January, but property owners won't get their millage rate cut until 2023.
"If all that money is taken and spent like that, that's the equivalent of raising taxes by 8 mills," Washburn said.
Washburn says if there's no rollback in property taxes next year, the county will be able to collect $44 million rather than the anticipated $20 million.
"I don't think that $44 million is appropriate. We would have never agreed to that. I would have never agreed to that," Washburn said, referring to supporting the bill in the General Assembly last session.
On Friday, Washburn, Representative Danny Mathis, and Rep. Robert Dickey wrote to Mayor Lester Miller and commissioners. They asked them to roll back the millage rate by 5 mills next year--sooner than planned.
However, Mayor Lester Miller says the county is just following the law.
"We're following the bill he created, that he passed. We're following it to a T. It says you collect one year and you give it back the next year," Miller said.
Miller says that's also the most financially sound option.
"I'm not going to let someone sitting in Atlanta dictate how they fund their public safety. These are local issues. They are there to advocate for us. As mayor and commission, we asked them to put forth local legislation. We asked them to get this on the ballot," Miller said. "They've done their job, but their job is not to micromanage Macon-Bibb County on how we use our funding."
Rep. Washburn says he is still supports the OLOST and hopes to see it voters approve of the new tax, but says he hopes that commissioners consider rolling back property taxes sooner than 2023.
Early voting is underway now. The election is November 2.