Mayor Weaver Rebukes Rating System

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Jasper Mayor John Weaver this week said he wished state lawmakers would change the Georgia’s tier rating system. During last night’s city council meeting, the mayor mentioned several times that he wished legislators would change the tier system, calling the economic rating system the most single issue facing rural communities.

“That is the most absolutely wrong thing that the State of Georgia does to counties,”

he said.

Weaver explained that the Tier System started 12 to 15 years ago and was established by the Department of Community Affairs for the purpose of distributing revenue from tobacco tax. Present at the meeting, Pickens County Economic Development Director Gerry Nechvatal further explained that the tier system assesses counties on per capita income.

“Our per capita income is skewed,”

Weaver said,

“because of two communities (Bent Tree and Big Canoe) we have inside the corporate limits of Pickens County.”

Nechvatal said that if a Tier Four community creates 25 new jobs these job creators receive a $750 tax credit per job; For every 15 jobs a Tier Three creates, companies receive a $1,250 tax credit per job; For every 10 jobs a Tier Two creates, companies receives a $2,500 tax credit per job created and for every 5 jobs a Tier One creates, companies receive a $3,500 tax credit. According to Nechvatal and Weaver, the tier formula dictates that the more prosperous the county, the less incentive exists for companies to grow. Nechvatal also said this system makes it difficult for recruiting companies into the county. The mayor added that the tier system also makes it difficult to keep businesses in the county, when companies know neighboring counties have more incentive. Additionally, City Clerk Tacie Williams noted Tier ratings affect several funding issues, including the ability to receive grants.

“We don’t feel that our tier rating is necessarily consistent with the overall economic condition of our county,”

Nechvatal said. Last year the county’s rating dropped to Tier Three from Four. This year, however, Pickens returned to its previous rating of four.

In the face of these obstacles, Jasper is enticing businesses to settle within city limits. Last night, city council approved a tax abatement agreement to do just this. The agreement will grant new businesses coming to Jasper certain tax credits.

“From a marketing standpoint,”

Nechvatal said,

“having a standard abatement policy in place gives us parody with some of our competing counties.”

He went on to say that it also gives the city a tool to help new businesses by giving them extra money to help them be successful.

Mayor Pro tem Jim Looney, though, wanted to know why Pickens County was mentioned in the document when, he said, it should only pertain to The City of Jasper. Nechvatal explained that the reason for this is consistency. “Whether a business locates in the city or within the county,” he said, “(it) will get the same incentive.” Council voted to approve the agreement unanimously.

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