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Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - 2:00am

Counties Opt For Manufacturing Tax

Troup County commissioners are among the latest in Georgia to enact a 2 percent tax on the energy used by manufacturers. They’re replacing a similar state sales tax that lawmakers are phasing out starting in 2013. Crisp and Bartow counties also recently passed the local excise tax.

When lawmakers decided earlier this year to end the sales tax on manufacturers’ energy use, they gave local governments the chance to keep their share of the revenue through a local 2 percent excise tax. Troup, Crisp and Bartow all passed it earlier this month.

“In this economic time, it’s hard to replace that money," said Tod Tentler, Troup County manager. "The only way to replace that money, really, is to put it on the backs of the other taxpayers of the county. We didn’t think that was the right thing to do.”

Tentler said the county and the city of LaGrange each stand to lose about $675,000 over three years without the tax.

“What we’ve done is give great incentives to our industries to get here, and when we were giving out those incentives, we were expecting to get this tax to help offset some of the incentives we gave them,” Tentler said.

Georgia Association of Manufacturers president Roy Bowen said passing the excise tax sends a bad message to manufacturers.

“Energy is such a large component of manufacturing cost, this 2 percent will make a difference in terms of companies deciding whether they’re going to locate [or] expand in a county or in an adjacent county that does not levy the new tax,” Bowen said.

Bowen said his association in encouraging counties to take a wait-and-see approach to evaluate the true impact of eliminating the manufacturing energy sales tax.

Butts County decided last week to do just that and see the impact on revenue before considering the local tax. Catoosa and Whitfield officials also have said they don't plan to implement the 2 percent excise tax because they don’t want to risk scaring away businesses.

"Businesses, obviously, are interested in healthy local governments," Bowen said. "I think that businesses would work with local governments to determine ways that they could accommodate any revenue shortfalls if, in fact, it exists."