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Unofficial Opinion 97-15

Unofficial Opinion 97-15

May 9, 1997
To: 

Attorney for Meriwether County

Re: 

The one mill tax limitation of O.C.G.A. § 48-5-220(20) limits the amount of ad valorem tax funds a county may pay to a county development authority for certain purposes.

You have asked whether the provisions of O.C.G.A. § 48-5-220(20) limit the amount of ad valorem tax funds a county may pay to a county development authority under an intergovernmental contract made pursuant to Paragraph I(a) of Section III of Article IX of the Georgia Constitution. The provisions of O.C.G.A. § 48-5-220(20) specify that county taxes may be levied and collected

[t]o provide for financial assistance to county or joint county and municipal development authorities for the purpose of developing trade, commerce, industry, and employment opportunities. No tax for this purpose shall exceed one mill per dollar upon the assessed value of the taxable property in the county levying the tax.

(Emphasis added.)

The effect of this statute is to limit the amount of ad valorem tax funds which a county may transfer to a county development authority as "financial assistance." See Peacock v. Georgia Municipal Ass'n, Inc., 247 Ga. 740, 742 (1981) (recognizing that the power to levy taxes and the power to expend money are corollary principles) and Atlanta v. Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Auth., 636 F.2d 1084, 1093 (5th Cir. 1981) (a statute limiting the use of tax revenue is merely one means of regulating the power of local governments). The statute should also be read in light of the restriction that a county governing authority only has the powers given by the legislature. McCray v. Cobb County, 251 Ga. 24, 27 (1983). See 1990 Op. Att'y Gen. U90-20. If there is a doubt of the existence of a particular power, the doubt is to be resolved in the negative. Mobley v. Polk County, 242 Ga. 798, 802 (1979).

Therefore, the one mill limitation of the statute should be read to restrict the amount of ad valorem tax funding which a county may provide for a development authority's operations. Under this construction of the statute, the one mill tax limitation of O.C.G.A. § 48-5-220(20) would apply where the county provides ad valorem tax funds to a county development authority in order to assist the development authority in the performance of its general, statutory purpose.

The limitation would also apply where the county transfers ad valorem tax funds to a county development authority under an intergovernmental contract in order to provide the development authority with financial assistance for a development authority project as defined and set forth at O.C.G.A. § 36-62-2(6), unless county ad valorem tax funding for any such project is otherwise authorized without a limitation in amount. See, e.g., O.C.G.A. § 48-5-220(14) (authorizing the levy and collection of county taxes "[t]o acquire, improve, and maintain airports, public parks, and public libraries"). In any event, the one mill limitation would not apply to the use of ad valorem tax funds by a county for the direct payment of the costs of an authorized project which may be undertaken by the county in conjunction with a county development authority.

Thus, the one mill tax limitation of O.C.G.A. § 48-5-220(20) limits the amount of ad valorem tax funds a county may pay to a county development authority. The limitation applies where the funds are provided to assist the development authority in performing its general, statutory purpose. The limitation also applies where the funds are provided under an intergovernmental contract for a development authority project, unless ad valorem tax funding for the project is otherwise authorized without a limitation in amount.

Prepared by:

DANIEL M. FORMBY
Deputy Attorney General