City mulls maintaining energy tax
By NIKKI WILEY The Brunswick News
Brunswick is considering adopting an ordinance that would allow the city to continue collecting an excise tax on manufacturers that the state plans to phase out.
The General Assembly passed a bill earlier this year that will eliminate excise taxes on energy in manufacturing over the next four years. Legislators said the incentive is an inducement for large industries to move into the state.
To soften the potential financial blow of less sales tax revenue, the legislation allows city and county governments to adopt a local excise tax to replace the one levied at the state level. It is not a new tax or a tax increase.
All tax collections in the city would stay within the city and be unrestricted in use.
City Manager Bill Weeks feels the city would benefit from levying the tax.
"The fact of the matter is we don't have any industrial tracts in the city that can support large industries other than what we already have," Weeks said. "We're mainly small business and retail, not big smokestack industries."
The city commission would have to approve the move.
"All this does is maintain the level that we are getting taxes at now," Weeks said. "This keeps our sales tax dollars from eroding."
It could prove helpful to the city in January, when it will begin receiving a smaller share of the 1 percent Local Option Sales Tax. In 2013, it will receive 27 percent, 8 percent less than it is getting now.
The problem with opting out of the industry tax, Brunswick Mayor Bryan Thompson said, is that the city has no way of knowing how much money it raises each year.
Collections are combined with Local Option Sales Tax revenue and are not tracked separately.
"We could be looking at $500 or $500,000," Thompson said. "We have no idea."
Weeks told the commission the most efficient way to evaluate the fiscal impact is to levy the tax and monitor revenue for a year.
Because it would not be a new tax or a tax increase, Thompson said he is likely to support maintaining it, but he hasn't made any final decisions.
"I would lean right now to just leave it alone and ... hope that our very good local businesses would understand where we're going from at this point in time," Thompson said.
The tax issue will be on the city commission's agenda Dec. 19.
Glynn County is opting to phase out the excise tax on energy. County Administrator Alan Ours says continuing to impose the tax could place the community in competition with those who use the tax break as an incentive to new businesses.
"Economic development and job creation is extremely important to Glynn County," Ours said. "We need to make sure that we're in a competitive position where we recruit new industry and maintain existing industries."
Keeping more of the Local Option Sales Tax for itself - 73 percent in January versus 65 percent today - will soften the county's loss.