City considers liquor tax by the drink

Published 5:43 pm Friday, March 30, 2018

The LaGrange City Council discussed a possible tax on liquor by the drink during Tuesday’s council retreat.

According to City Manager Meg Kelsey, many cities in Georgia charge a 3 percent sales tax on liquor by the drink, which is the state maximum. However, the City of LaGrange does not currently charge a special tax on liquor by the drink.

“Mr. [Jim] Arrington brought to me the idea of assessing a tax on liquor by the drink. We currently don’t assess a tax for that,” Kelsey said. “We do assess wholesale for beer, wine and liquor. I reached out to [city attorney] Jeff Todd to see if we could also assess a tax by the drink. He tells me the only option there would be to do liquor. You can’t do beer and wine because of what we have in place for wholesale.”

The money from the tax would go to the city’s general fund. Council member Willie Edmondson said that the additional revenue could be helpful as the city grows. Council member Nathan Gaskin agreed that it could be a smart way to raise money. The City of LaGrange does not levy a property tax, so the majority of the city’s income comes from utilities, telecommunications, sanitation and tax areas like hotel, motel taxes and ad valorem title tax.

More research into the tax will most likely be done before the council officially considers enacting a tax on liquor by the drink.

“The question from an economic standpoint would be the tax generated versus the cost of collection,” Mayor Jim Thornton said. “That is the delta. I found it strange when Meg [Kelsey] said to me that other cities do this, and we didn’t. We do receive alcohol excise tax. That is a budgetary revenue item, but that all comes in on the wholesale side for beer, wine and liquor.”

Arrington also admitted that the proposal would require a close look at whether the tax would generate more revenue than it would take to collect before the council seriously considers the proposal.

“I just didn’t know if it would be beneficial,” Arrington said. “I assume it would, but there again if it is only producing $10,000 a year, it is probably not [worth the expense].”

Council member Tom Gore questioned the tax, asking if city needed the additional income. Kelsey said the income from the tax would likely offset other expenses already in the budget.

The LaGrange City Council will meet again on April 10 at 5:30 p.m. at 208 Ridley Avenue.