County owed back taxes by Walton, Newton

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By Tia Lynn Ivey

managing editor

A decade-long oversight prolonged Morgan County from receiving over $75,000 in tax revenue out of Stanton Springs as part of the Joint Development Authority’s (JDA) revenue-sharing agreement.

Morgan County is owed back payments of a combined $77,128 from Newton and Walton counties, which collected what was supposed to be shared tax revenue from Technology Park Atlanta in Stanton Springs beginning in 2004 all the way through 2015. But that money was never distributed between Morgan and Jasper counties. Morgan County is part of the JDA, a four-county board tasked with overseeing the development of Stanton Springs. The board is comprised of Morgan, Jasper, Newton and Walton counties, all of which are to receive a portion of tax money generated through Stanton Springs based on each county’s investment. Morgan’s share is 15 percent, Jasper’s share is 10 percent, and Walton’s and Newton’s shares are each 37.5 percent.

According to Christian Henry, attorney for Morgan County, when taxes began to be collected back in 2004, the Walton County Tax Commissioner was unaware of the agreement to distribute part of the money to the other counties when tax revenue began to be generated from Technology Park Atlanta over a decade ago. Morgan County was unaware that tax money had been collected at all. The oversight went unnoticed until 2015.

“It’s just such a rare situation,” said Henry. “There aren’t many Joint Development Authorities in the state, so no one really understood the process and we really weren’t sure how to handle it.”

The JDA’s attorney, Andrea Gray, has collaborated with each county’s attorneys to renegotiate the JDA’s Intergovernmental Agreement.

The Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) approved the revised revenue-sharing agreement last Tuesday, Sept. 6, finalizing the repayment schedule and how future tax revenue will be distributed.

Newton County has already issued a check for over $20,000 toward repayment to Morgan County. Both Newton and Walton County will complete repayment by 2020 to Morgan County.

“This was a joint effort of nine attorneys. If you can imagine nine attorneys getting anything done you might consider this a miracle of epic proportions,” joked Gray.

According to Andy Ainslie, BOC member and JDA member, an estimated $30 million in tax revenue from Shire’s $1 billion bio-manufacturing facility and $14 million adjacent training facility could be collected and distributed between the four counties in the next 10 years.

“It’s a significant amount of money, that’s why it’s so important we get this done now.”

The BOC unanimously voted to approve the new revenue-sharing Intergovernmental Agreement.

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