State not sure where money should go
by Jason Wright / Appen Newspapers / http://www.northfulton.com/
July 31, 2007
It looks as though the $850,000 in insurance premium tax money floating in bureaucratic limbo isn't as easily wrapped up as Milton City Hall had once hoped.
The money, "lost" to a filing mistake on Milton's part, should just go to the county, said City Manager Aaron Bovos. From there, it would be routed into the former Northwest Fulton Special Services District fund because it is money paid by the people in that area.
However, according to Glen Allen, a spokesman from Georgia Insurance Safety Fire Commissioner John Oxendine's office, the fate of the cash is up to interpretation.
"This is the first time that a situation like this has occurred," he said. "Hypothetically the money would either go to the county or throughout all the counties in Georgia."
He said ultimately the fate of the money will rest with a decision from the office's premium tax and law division. That decision could take at least a few weeks.
In the mean time, Milton has set up a meeting with the office Aug. 9 to discuss the matter.The problem with Bovos' plan, said Allen, is the issue of population. Local governments in Georgia collect the tax on insurance policies written by licensed companies. The tax is then remitted to each local jurisdiction based upon the per capita population, similar to a local option sales tax.
Previously, the county collected these funds for the unincorporated area.Fulton County has already submitted its ordinance and paperwork for the money this year with a population count that did not include the roughly 20,000 new Milton citizens, Allen said. Thus, the situation arises that Fulton County would be getting money for 20,000 people it didn't count.
"How can you add population [after it has been submitted]?" said Allen.Sharon Whitmore, assistant Fulton County finance director, agreed with his assessment. She said Fulton County only gets insurance premium tax money based on the population of its unincorporated area.Thus, any money would only be doled out based on the county's 2007 numbers, which did not include Milton."I don't think [the state insurance office] will say we still consider them unincorporated," she said. "I don't think we'll get any money from the state earmarked as Milton's share."Bovos said
Allen's comments about the money were a surprise to City Hall."We did not know about the office's speculation," he said.Bovos also said the city assumed the money would simply go to the county because there's never been another option."That's how things worked before incorporation," he said.Regardless, the city manager still maintains that the city's trump card is the possibility of legislation written by either Milton founder Rep. Jan Jones, R-Milton, or Rep. Mark Burkhalter, R-Johns Creek.If not, the city could be out $850,000.