County agrees to establish separate EMS tax district

Thu, 06/07/2007 - 4:47pm
By: John Thompson

In a move that has been debated for years, the Fayette County Commission voted Wednesday afternoon to create a special EMS tax district that would include all county residents, except those in Peachtree City.

The move is the first step in concluding a bitter argument between Fayette County and Peachtree City officials. For years, Peachtree City's leaders have claimed they were being double-taxed, since the city has operated its own fire and emergency services since 1987.

The move was welcomed by the Peachtree City Council Wednesday night as they met to discuss the proposed budget for the upcoming year.

Councilman Stuart Kourajian thanked Mayor Harold Logsdon for sticking with the issue. Councilwoman Judi-ann Rutherford also complimented the commissioners who followed through with their promise to take care of the matter.

During discussions last year, Logsdon said his city's residents were paying more than $220,000 a year to the county for EMS services that were being provided instead by the city's departments.

Peachtree City officials asked for the meeting last year because they say they’re being taxed twice for EMS services. Peachtree City has operated its own fire and emergency services division since 1987, but is complaining because city residents are still paying EMS taxes to the county.

At the time, Fayette County Director of Fire and Emergency Services Director Jack Krakeel offered a history lesson in EMS services in the county, so officials could place the current dispute in context.

In 1973, the state created the Emergency Medical Service Systems Act, which established guidelines for EMS systems. After the act, the county used grant funds to acquire two ambulances and obtain the license for Fayette County EMS. The ambulances were placed in Fayetteville and Peachtree City and staffed by volunteers.

In 1978, the county acquired two more ambulances and placed them in Tyrone and south Fayette County to provide better coverage. Shortly afterwards, Peachtree City obtained its own EMS zone and license.

Between 1983 and 1987, the county established the Department of Fire and Emergency Services and consolidated all the county volunteer programs into one department. The department continued to provide EMS support to Peachtree City.

But in 1987, the city told Fayette County that it was taking over full responsibility for all EMS functions.

In 2000, House Bill 489 was established urging local governments to work at eliminating duplication of services and Peachtree City officials started raising the tax equity issue.

Krakeel at the time told the officials that there were three options available: retain status quo, reimburse the city on an annual basis or create a separate EMS tax district that would exclude Peachtree City.

The director calculated the financial impact of reimbursing the city and discovered that its $220,149 a year or approximately $3.61 in property taxes for a Peachtree City resident with a $200,000 home.

Another option offered by Fayette County was to consolidate the two departments.

During Wednesday’s meeting, interim administrator Krakeel said the county needed to resolve the issue by July 1 to give the municipalities time to figure out the economic impact and to resolve the H.B. 489 dispute by the July 1 deadline.

“This has been a thorn in Peachtree City’s side for years,” said Commission Chairman Jack Smith.

The new tax district could be created by an ordinance, said county attorney Bill McNally. The motion passed unanimously, but Commissioner Peter Pfeifer was not happy about the issue.

“They’re (Peachtree City) making a tragic mistake,” he said.

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Submitted by Concerned Citizen on Wed, 06/06/2007 - 6:41pm.

Way to go County Comission! To see my local government doing something that makes sense even though it takes money out of thier own coffers is truly refreshing. Thanks ya'll, I'm really glad the old regime is gone.

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