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City files suit against county over tax increase, SDS agreement
2018 0821 RH VS BRYAN COUNTY ET AL (1) (1)-1.jpg
RH lawsuit

Editor's note: A downloadable PDF of the suit is above.

As promised, Richmond Hill has filed suit against Bryan County's Board of Commissioners, claiming the county breached a contract when it voted Aug. 14 to increase millage rates on city residents. 

The county reportedly has 30 days to answer the suit, which claims the county violated a 2003 agreement on service delivery by removing a 1-mill reduction in taxes agreed to in 2003, 

Richmond Hill claims its residents are being double taxed and paying for county services. It  alleges the county wrongly moved some $2 million in tax money meant for countywide government to help pay for services in a special service district, an apparent reference to unincorporated Bryan County.

The lawsuit says, "Richmond Hill desires to review, revise, and reach an agreement on new SDS Agreements with the County that eliminates any and all areas of funding inequities and taxation of Richmond Hill residents, businesses, and taxpayers by the County for services that the County does not provide to the property taxpayers located within the corporate limits of Richmond Hill. These areas include but are not limited to the following: public works, road construction and maintenance, bridge construction and maintenance, curbside solid waste collection and disposal, landfill, mosquito control, Planning & Zoning, engineering, building inspection, Economic Development, Fire Protection, general government administration and costs, building maintenance, employee health reimbursement, water distribution, sewer collection and treatment, soil erosion control, street lighting, storm water control (drainage), surveyor, traffic control, yard -debris removal, jail and other services.:

Among the claims by Richmond Hill officials are that commissioners are:

  •  "....improperly using revenues not allowed under Georgia law for payment of services for special service districts. For instance, Mobile home tax, alcohol beverage tax, cable fees, alcohol licenses and occupational tax totaling $528,000 dollars are not funding mechanisms allowed under Georgia law to pay for special service district expenditures."
  • "In addition, the Defendants made transfers and loans of county wide tax dollars to the special service district' s fund for fire and water and sewer of $2, 101, 222, in violation of the SDS agreements. Approximately 46% or $958, 788 dollars ( 1. 8 mills) of these funds were received from the incorporated property owners. Hence, city property owners paid for county services provided only in the unincorporated area and received no benefit for the taxes that were paid."
  • The Defendants illegally failed to budget and expend the insurance premium tax as required by O.C.G.A. § 33- 8- 83, from 2010 to 2016. The Defendants failure to comply with O.C.G.A. § 33- 8- 83 has resulted in the insurance premium tax not accurately being applied to reduce service cost and fees prior to the reduction of special service district taxes being rolled back for the amount of insurance premium tax receipts. The Defendants identified fire and sanitation service as unincorporated services for which the insurance premium tax revenues must be used to reduce cost and fees for services. However, the Defendants' failure to comply with the requirements of O.C.G.A. § 33- 8- 83 resulted in excess fire and sanitation fees being charged in the amount of $4,011, 625 dollars. 
  • The Defendants have over budgeted expenditures and under budgeted revenues of the county for all years of operation from 2010 to 2017, based on County' s approved audits. This improper budget practice ofthe Defendants has generated $ 12, 211, 312 dollars in property taxes more than necessary to pay for the cost of services actually provided. This amounts to more than 10 mills in excess property tax collection. The general fund currently has a reserve of $19, 852, 785. Richmond Hill believes and has documented its belief that the Defendants have collected $ 12, 218, 365 dollars from incorporated property owners, over this same time period. Some of these funds have been used to provide services to the unincorporated area of Bryan county. The Defendants have used these excess tax collections to inflate the fund reserves of the county in order to have funds to transfer to or borrow from for expected cost over runs in special service district services. ( Unincorporated area of Bryan county) 18. The Defendants have refused to correct their violations of the SDS agreements and Georgia law. As a result, Richmond Hill has no choice but to seen the assistance of the judicial system to compel compliance with the provisions of Georgia law applicable to Service Delivery Strategy and other applicable Georgia laws. 

It's unclear whether a court date has been set. Richmond Hill's lawyer is Raymond Dickey of Effingham County. The city has also used Effingham County Commission Chairman Wesley Corbitt as its consultant. 

See previous coverage: 

County votes on tax "equalization," Richmond Hill says it will file suit

Richmond Hill Mayor: We are as shocked as anyone," by county tax hike proposal

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