Tax or Fee? Conflict between Mayoral Candidates Heats Up

News, Politics
Hiawassee election

Hiawassee, GA – The race for Hiawassee’s next mayor took a turn toward “politics-as-usual” on Saturday, October 7, the result of a clash in mindset between the two candidates seeking the City’s highest post, Liz Ordiales and Barry Keith Dearing.

Liz Ordiales at the Candidate Forum on October 2.

Liz Ordiales responded to Barry Dearing’s published allegation of covert higher taxation on her social media page, expressing disappointment in her opponent.

Candidate Ordiales wrote, “The article [Dearing] ran in this week’s paper is all lies. If you can’t win on your own merit, don’t play the game.”

The conflict stems from a decision made during Special Called Council Meetings held on August 8 and August 11, concerning the adoption of the Franchise Tax.

Fetch Your News contacted the Mayoral candidates on Sunday, October 8, seeking comments regarding their division.

Candidate Ordiales refers to the passed ordinance as a fee, while Candidate Dearing insists it is a tax.

Ms. Ordiales responded, “As I explained at my first Meet and Greet on September 18, the Candidate Forum on October 2, and at the Mover & Shakers meeting this past Friday, this is not a tax on the citizens of Hiawassee. This is a fee that 524 out of 535 cities in Georgia collect from their utility company. The fee is for EMC to use City property to provide their services to our citizens.”

“The rate assigned was 4% which is the lowest possible, so on an electric bill of $100, that would be $4.00 that the EMC should be paying the City. Windstream has been paying this franchise fee for years and we must get ready for new companies entering our area to provide services,” Ordiales said.

Ms. Ordiales stressed the tax does not apply to Hiawassee citizens, adding, “If Mr. Dearing would have attended meetings prior to his announcement to run for Mayor, he would have been educated on this topic. This was discussed at two council meetings, had two readings – as it is an ordinance – and was approved by the entire council.”

Barry Keith Dearing at the Candidate Forum on October 2.

Ordiales went onto say Dearing’s accusation of support for higher taxation is untrue,  “I have had two opportunities to vote for higher tax increases and have not done so.”

Barry Keith Dearing views the Franchise Tax in a different light, claiming former Mayor Pro-Tem “passed the largest tax increase in the City’s history without public hearing or comment. The Franchise tax is directed against all City businesses and residents, and will appear on [their] power bill in the near future.”

If elected, Barry Keith Dearing intends to repeal what he considers a tax, vowing there will be no future increases.

Fetch Your News was unaware of the Special Called Meetings, a violation of State law, in which the motion in question was discussed and adopted.

Fetch Your News is awaiting a response from Blue Ridge Mountain EMC as to whether the ordinance will be passed along to customers in the form of higher bills.

Updated information is available.


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