Sun, Nov 8, 2015 at 2:33 PM
(Ed NOTE: John O’Looney is the CVI analyst who prepared the CVI – SSI Report)
Thank you for taking time out of your Friday evening to discuss the Carl Vinson Institute (CVI) St Simons Island Incorporation study.
Below is my understanding of our discussion; please correct anything I have misstated or add to any key items I missed.
The CVI report is based on three scenarios:
Scenario 1. New city provides three essential services - zoning & planning, code enforcement, and solid waste, PLUS responsibility for road maintenance was included, required by the GA Code section used as the basis of the analysis.
You explained that scenario one is "viable without considering property tax" due to the "significant income generated by the hotel/motel tax" from St Simons and Sea Island. You also commented that Z&P and CE are low overhead services to provide.
Scenario 2. Adds fire, police and library.
Scenario 3. Adds recreation.
You explained that there is a "surplus in all scenarios" and that there would be "no tax increase to anybody" on St Simons or Sea Island from the new city.
(Ed Note: the CVI study did not consider whether Glynn County would need to raise taxes due the sizeable redirection of taxes to the new city that are now received by the county, because you were not asked to do so.)
Data Analysis Excluding Sea Island
When I asked if you could provide data analysis for St. Simons only if Sea Island residents chose not to be included in the incorporation, you stated that to do so "would be like starting over".
You explained that you were not asked to complete the analysis under that scenario and therefore, did not ask for or receive data segregated that way, that all data was provided to you in the aggregate.
Impact of Incorporation on the City of Brunswick and Glynn County
When I asked you what the impact of SSI incorporation would have on the City of Brunswick and/or Glynn County, you explained that you were not asked to analyze the impact, even though the City of Brunswick could lose some of its Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) income.
For your records, the City of Brunswick currently receives 27% of LOST collected county wide.
You explained that the impact to Glynn County would be the value - income and expenses - of the services transferred to the new city.
* * * * * * * * *
Again, thank you for your time and please let me know if I've erred in any way. We look forward to receiving your report.
With kind regards,
John Looney’s Reply
Dear Representative Jones,
Thank you for your thorough summary of our conversation. I can see that part of your getting elected was probably your ability to grasp things quickly. I did want to clarify a couple of minor points.
You wrote that: “and that there would be "no tax increase to anybody" on St Simons or Sea Island from the new city.”
While we sometimes think we are smart here at the Institute, we are realistic enough to know that it is not possible to predict what local government governing boards will do in the future. As such, it is certainly possible that either or both the county or the new city could choose to raise taxes (e.g., to recoup a perceived loss of revenue in the case of the former or increase the level of service in the case of the latter). The point of the viability study is to simply say that it is possible for the new city (given current rates of taxation) to provide services similar to other cities in Georgia of a similar size and demographic composition. As such, the study indicates that it is certainly possible for there to be no tax increase to anybody from the new city, but there is no guarantee that this would be the case. It is a fine point, but it has sometimes been the case that individuals will interpret our study as “a budget” that the local governments are bound to follow in the future.
The second point has to do with the impact on Brunswick. I did not mean to imply that Brunswick would have to lose any of the local option sales tax monies. Because the LOST distribution is negotiated, there is no telling what the distribution will be in the post-incorporation situation. All we know is that the new city’s share would have to come from either Brunswick, Glynn County or a bit from both.
I hope I am not belaboring the obvious, but we sincerely work to have our statements sail as close to coast of truth as is possible.
John O’Looney, Ph.D.
Senior Public Service Associate