County hears pitch from revenue firm

Photo by Ricki Barker

Photo by Ricki Barker

ALBANY, Ga. -- As Dougherty County officials grapple with declining tax revenues, the county's Finance Committee met with a company that has been able to help local governments relocate hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in unclaimed revenues from existing programs.

CH2M Hill is a national firm that works with city and county governments to either streamline services, find underutilized revenue streams or privatize certain government services to help stop chronic hemorrhaging of tax dollars.

Company representatives Greg Wilson and Jock Connell pitched their services to Dougherty County officals Wednesday as a possible way for the county to find additional revenues without having to burden taxpayers.

In a nutshell, the company identifies existing sources of revenue, like cable franchise fees, E911 fees, and business license taxes, and audits them to ensure that everyone is paying his or her fair share.

They don't increase fees or taxes; they just make sure that the government is receiving what it should, Connell said.

"Basically, we audit entities like cable companies to make sure they are paying their fair share, and what we find, more often than not, is that over time government's lose focus on whether they are collecting the proper amounts and that they are, in fact, losing money they are entitled to," Connell said.

Commissioner John Hayes, who first made contact with the company and asked representatives to come speak to the Finance Committee, said that tough times require government leaders to take extra steps to not only cut budgets but to try and find alternate sources of revenue.

"It's very, very critical for government and the citizens that are grappling with these budget issues to try and find new and alternative sources of revenue," Hayes said. "We've cut to the bone, but there is only so much cutting you can do before you have to start looking at the revenue side."

After hearing the CH2M Hill presentation, Finance Committee Chairman Lamar Hudgins said he'd likely ask the group to come back and speak to either the Committee or the whole Commission.

While it appeared that most of the areas where governments typically have unclaimed revenue do not apply to Dougherty County -- like hotel/motel taxes, since Dougherty County has no motels or hotels in the unincorporated area -- some options, like assessing taxes on cell towers and billboards based on the income they generate, could add up to some additional revenues.

CH2M Hill representatives have also done work with the city's wastewater treatment plant in which they have worked to increase efficiency in operations, Wilson said.