Update: Judge Reportedly Rules for Cities in Gwinnett Services Dispute
The million-dollar matter has resulted in sanctions that include police being unable to use radar to track speeders.
Updated 5:45 p.m., Sept. 26, 2011
The lengthy Service Delivery Strategy dispute between Gwinnett County and the cities in the Gwinnett Municipal Association has been resolved, apparently in favor of the cities. The GwMA is reviewing the judge's 58-page ruling that was issued Friday, Sept. 23, and will release details later.
However, an initial review of Judge David Barrett's order appears to favor the cities, saying that the county can't tax residents whose cities decide not to accept and jointly fund an SDS service.
"The County is without authority to levy taxes, assessments or fees on municipal residents, individuals, or property owners whose municipality decides not to accept and jointly-fund a SDS Service," Barrett's order read.
Also, the judge appears to favor the cities with regard to police service and the funding for such:
"The County is not authorized to provide Police Services or levy or impose a tax, assessment or fee for Police Services within any City or seek any remuneration from any City absent a written agreement for the provision of Police Services," the judge's order read.
GwMA President Linda Blechinger, also the mayor of Auburn, issued the following statement Monday:
“Today we received Judge David Barrett’s Final Order regarding the Service Delivery Strategy (SDS) dispute between 14 cities and Gwinnett County. SDS is a state law that requires cities and counties to determine the local government that will provide certain public services and how those services are funded. The order follows the August, 2010 hearing that was held in Superior Court of Gwinnett County. Prior to the hearing, the cities and Gwinnett County had attempted to resolve the dispute worked through court-ordered mediation and multiple negotiation sessions that began in 2007.
"The cities are now reviewing the order and its impact on the taxpayers of the municipal and unincorporated areas of the county. We intend to provide additional comments after that review. Some aspects of the order appear to have been dealt with through direct negotiations with the county officials that resumed in June, 2011. Other provisions, including the order’s implementation schedule, will need further analysis.
The cities intend to continue meeting with county officials to resolve the previously identified issues and explore options to conclude this matter as soon as possible. Our objective is to finally resolve the disputed SDS tax equity issues in a manner that complies with the law, the orders and resolves the issues for all Gwinnett County taxpayers.”
Gwinnett Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash issued the following statement Monday: “This is a complex case and the order is lengthy. We’ll carefully review the judge’s ruling to fully gauge its impact on all the taxpayers in Gwinnett County.”
The matter dates to 2009, when the county sued the GwMA; the matter concerns cities' costs to the county for services they provide themselves, such as police. The disputed amount has been estimated at $14 million.
One notable sanction resulting from the case is that since Jan. 1, 2011, police agencies in several cities as well as the Gwinnett County Police have been unable to use radar to track speeders.
Patch will continue to have updates on this ruling