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Porterdale council OKs liquor store referendum on Nov. 2 ballot
Sets property tax rate that increases taxes despite remaining at last year’s level
Porterdale City Hall.jpg

PORTERDALE, Ga. — Porterdale property owners will see a tax increase and voters will decide in November if they want to allow liquor stores in the city for the first time.

City Council members voted 3-1 Thursday, Aug. 19, to place a special referendum election on the Nov. 2 ballot asking if Porterdale voters want to allow the city council to issue licenses for the package sale of distilled spirits inside the city. 

They also voted to set a property tax rate of 14.0720 mills for the third consecutive year. It is considered a tax increase because of higher property assessments this year compared to 2020.

The 3-1 vote for the Nov. 2 referendum included council members Linda Finger, Michael Patterson and new member Jill Minnoia voting yes, and Kay Piper voting no.

The referendum will ask voters to vote yes or no to the question: "Shall the issuance of licenses for the package sale of distilled spirits be approved?" 

If approved, it will authorize the Porterdale City Council to consider issuing licenses for retail liquor sales.

State law formerly required at least 35% of the registered voters in a city or county to sign a petition to initiate a referendum for retail liquor sales. Legislation approved in May allowed a governing body to pass an ordinance to place the referendum for retail liquor sales on a ballot. 

Consideration of a referendum began earlier this year when Rebekah Ali asked the council to consider annexing the site of a convenience store her family operates at the corner of Brown Bridge and Crowell roads. She said she planned to operate a package store in the same building and prompted city officials to consider placing the question on the ballot.

Liquor by the drink and retail beer sales already are allowed in the city. 

Councilman Michael Patterson, a pastor, said he had concerns about the possibility of easier access to liquor for some. 

However, he said he believed any time the council can give voters a chance to vote on an issue they should do so.

"I can support it, with concerns," Patterson said.

Councilwoman Linda Finger said she supported giving voters the choice rather than the council making the final decision.

"It's their town also," she said. "I think it's the residents' decision."

The council would need to amend its zoning and other ordinances to add package stores and could set the conditions for their operation. Finger suggested using distance requirements to limit the number of stores in the city.

Deadline for registering to vote in the Nov. 2 election is Oct. 4.

Also at the Thursday meeting, the council voted to set a property tax rate of 14.0720 mills for the third consecutive year.

The rate, however, is considered a 21.77% tax increase because higher reassessments will produce more tax revenue.

The tax digest — the total value of all taxable real property in the city — increased from $31.5 million last year to $35.77 million this year.

However, the city also was forced in 2020 to deal with a series of financial problems in 2020, including setting up plans to pay back a number of utilities for city services after officials said the city owed about $1 million. It has since set up the plans, officials said.

Also Thursday, the council:

• Voted to allow the Covington-based group March Against Meth to use Porterdale Memorial Gym Sept. 25 for an anti-methamphetamine educational event.

• Held a ceremonial swearing-in ceremony for Minnoia to the Post 4 seat. 

The council recently appointed her to complete the term of Mike Harper, which ends Dec. 31. Minnoia qualified for election to a full four-year term last week and will be unopposed in the Nov. 2 election.