This publication is presented as a practical guide that will allow local officials to evaluate issues of tax equity and determine whether residents are being double taxed for services. Once tax inequities have been identified, they can then be addressed by local leaders through agreements that result in the fair treatment of all taxpayers.
The original version of this GMA print publication was written in 1977 by Bill Thornton, GMA Research Assistant, who developed the format for determining the extent of double taxation and Billy George, GMA Research Director, who edited the handbook. The concepts and methods presented in that first edition are still relevant today, and GMA is pleased to provide this updated edition as an online resource guide for local officials.
Enacted by the General Assembly in 1997, the Service Delivery Strategy Act established a process by which local governments within each county must come to an agreement about service provision. Generally, the Act has the purpose of identifying which services are provided, where, to whom, and by whom they are provided; eliminating or minimizing duplication of services; and identifying how services are funded and eliminating double taxation. The Act also establishes a mechanism to resolve disputes over local government service delivery, funding equity, and land use. More detailed information about the Service Delivery Act can be found in GMA’s Handbook for Mayors and Councilmembers.
Since 1997, all Georgia cities and counties have been required to negotiate and submit service delivery plans (SDS) to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, and counties and cities must submit SDS updates in conjunction with the adoption of revised comprehensive plans.
Double taxation is a fundamental issue to be addressed in the preparation of SDS agreements. Specifically, Criterion Three provides that “3)(A) The strategy shall ensure that the cost of any service which a county provides primarily for the benefit of the unincorporated area of the county shall be borne by the unincorporated area residents, individuals, and property owners who receive the service. Further, when the county and one or more municipalities jointly fund a county-wide service, the county share of such funding shall be borne by the unincorporated residents, individuals, and property owners that receive the service.”
As city officials work through the process of outlining service provision and negotiating SDS, it is important to understand how to recognize when double taxation exists and how to calculate tax inequity.