Monday, June 29, 2015

State Defines Alternative Fuel Vehicles In Preparation For July 1 Implementation of Transportation Act

Fuel Taxes To Increase

The Georgia Department of Revenue on Thursday issued a policy bulletin to define alternative fuel vehicles for the purposes of imposing the new fee on these vehicles dictated by the transportation bill passed by the Georgia General Assembly in late March.

The policy bulletin also determines which vehicles are eligible for the special alternative fuel license plate. Vehicles with the alternative fuel license tag can travel in the High Occupancy Vehicle lanes in Atlanta even if only one person is in the car.

Oconee County Tax Commissioner Jennifer Riddle said there has been some confusion among county residents about the new fee and the license plates and that owners of hybrid electric and gasoline vehicles who received July tag renewal notices actually were misinformed that they would have to pay the alternative fuel vehicle fee.

The new policy bulletin is effective July 1, when fuel taxes and prices will increase as a result of the new law and when a new fee of $5 will be added to the bill for those who stay in a hotel, motel or other similar accommodation throughout the state.

Excise Tax Increase

The transportation act will increase the excise tax to 26 cents per gallon for gasoline and 29 cents per gallon on diesel fuel, effective on July 1.

The excise tax at present is 7.5 cents per gallon for both gasoline and diesel.

Prices Will Increase July 1

Part of this increase in the excise tax will be offset by elimination of the existing state sales tax on motor fuels, which, at present, is 11.8 cents per gallon for gasoline and 13.8 cents per gallon on diesel fuel.

That translates into a 6.7 cent increase in the gasoline tax and a 7.7 cent increase in the diesel fuel tax, effective July 1.

The revenue from the fuel tax increase, the hotel fee and the alternative fuel vehicle fee is to be used to fund transportation infrastructure projects around the state.

Definitions In Law

The transportation act passed by the legislature defines “alternative fuel” as electricity, natural gas, and propane.

An “alternative fueled vehicle” is defined as “Any vehicle fueled solely by alternative fuel” plus vehicles using “bi-fuel, or dual fuel.”

The bill imposes a $200 annual fee for non-commercial alternative fuel vehicles and a $300 annual fee for commercial vehicles.

The fees are in addition to license plate fees.

The job of the Department of Revenue was to define more precisely what the definitions meant and determine how they meshed with the license plate categories in existence.

Initial Definition

Tax Commissioner Riddle told me in an email message last week that “there have been some different interpretations of the bill” and that the Department of Revenue “policy has changed a few times since the bill was passed.”

Riddle said that “initially, the alternative fuel fee was going to apply to hybrid electric-and-gasoline vehicles.”

License renewal notices, sent from Atlanta, for those persons whose birthday is coming up in July used this early interpretation and included the alternative fuel fee, according to Riddle.

Given the new policy, she said, those fees now will be waived.

“We received a lot of calls about the fee,” Riddle wrote.

Tag Costs

Additional confusion comes about because of the availability of a special license plate that lists the vehicle as an “Alternative Fuel Vehicle.”

Individuals wanting this tag must pay a one-time manufacturing fee of $25, the $20 annual registration fee, and a $35 special tag fee.

Cars with this license plate can use the HOV lanes in the Atlanta area.

Conventional hybrids are not eligible for the alternative fuel tag, but plug-in hybrids are, if the owner pays the alternative fuel vehicle fee. But that fee is optional.

Only owners of pure electric cars are required to pay the alternative fuel vehicle fee.

The chart below shows the link between the fee and the license plates. (Click the chart to enlarge it.)

Impact Fees

The transportation bill passed in March also includes highway impact fees that are to be collected at the times of licensing.

Owners of vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of between15,500 and 26,000 pounds must pay $50 per year, while owners of vehicles with a GVWR of more than 26,000 pounds must pay a $100 impact fee each year.

The GVWR can be found on the door pillar of the driver’s side of the vehicle as part of the manufacturer’s label, according to Riddle.

Many of the larger pickup trucks, as well as vans, motor homes and busses, have weights requiring payment of this fee, she said.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Oconee County Consultant To Give Progress Report On Cleanup Of County’s Two Sewage Treatment Facilities

Sludge Removal At LAS

Bob Sheldon, the consultant who is spearheading cleanup operations for the county’s two troubled sewage treatment facilities, is scheduled to give an update on Tuesday night on his progress so far and discuss his plans for the future.

Sheldon will provide specifics on sludge removal at the county’s Land Application System facility on Rocky Branch Road, according to the agenda released by County Clerk Jane Greathouse on Friday afternoon for Tuesday night’s Board of Commissioners meeting.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Oconee County Tourism Director Says New $5 Hotel Fee Will Have Negative Impact On Travel In Georgia

Wrote To Legislators And Governor

Sen. Bill Cowsert told a small group of Oconee County Republicans last month that he was glad county Tourism Director Peggy Holcomb was not present as he gave his justification for adding $5 to the daily bills at hotels, bed and breakfast establishments, and motels around the state.

Cowsert knew how Holcomb felt about the transportation bill that Cowsert supported and the General Assembly passed late in this year’s session that added the $5 hotel fee and increased the gasoline tax in the state, effective July 1.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Oconee County Commission Chairman Davis Raises Again Possibility of Daniells Bridge Road Projects

After Rejection

Only two months after the Oconee County Board of Commissioners turned down two Daniells Bridge Road projects after a lengthy discussion, Commission Chairman Melvin Davis earlier this month brought them brought up again for consideration.

Davis made only oblique reference to the two roadway projects in his comments, but Commissioner John Daniell, whose negative vote was key on April 7 when the Board rejected Davis' push for the roadwork, understood and responded.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Oconee County Industrial Development Authority Approves Payment Against Caterpillar Bond

Never Uses Name

The Oconee County Industrial Development Authority agreed on Monday to contribute $50,000 to the nearly $700,000 payment due next year for the bond for Caterpillar, but IDA Chairman Rick Walker told anyone who was listening not to expect a similar payment in the future.

The payment for the Caterpillar bond was part of the $120,500 budget approved by the Authority at its regular meeting in the Courthouse on Monday afternoon.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Oconee County Utility Department Director Chris Thomas Resigns

Effect Next Week

Chris Thomas, head of Oconee County’s beleaguered Utility Department, has resigned effective June 19.

Thomas, 42, has been with the county for 17 years and has been director of the Utility Department since 2008.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Volunteer Group Reported Low Levels Of E. Coli Bacteria In Oconee County’s Calls Creek

Downstream Of Sewer Plant

Oconee County citizens and officials got some good news yesterday regarding the county’s Calls Creek wastewater treatment plant.

The Upper Oconee Watershed Network, a volunteer group dedicated to protecting water resources in the Upper Oconee basis, reported that its sampling of Calls Creek at two locations downstream from the plant on Saturday showed relatively low levels of the potentially dangerous E. coli bacteria.