Court Approves SDS Settlement
Chief Superior Court Judge David Barrett of the Enotah Judicial Circuit signed a consent order Feb. 8 approving the settlement.
The service delivery dispute between Gwinnett County and its cities has officially ended.
On Feb. 7, the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners and 15 Gwinnett cities approved a proposed settlement to the Service Delivery Strategy (SDS) lawsuit. On Feb. 8, Chief Superior Court Judge David Barrett of the Enotah Judicial Circuit signed a consent order approving the settlement.
As part of the settlement, four new service districts will be implemented in 2013 for fire and emergency medical services, police services, Loganville Emergency Medical Services and planning, development, zoning and code enforcement services. Gwinnett County will provide services only to cities that elect to participate in the special service district for each service.
Once the new service districts are implemented, property owners in cities that opt out of the service districts will not pay county taxes for those services. Though the change in service providers will be effective immediately, there will be no changes in property tax billing for 2012.
The court’s approval of the settlement means the sanctions that have prevented the involved parties from receiving state loans, grants and permits will be lifted.
“I am pleased that we were finally able to come to an agreement among ourselves rather than have to either abide by the trial court’s ruling or continue the lengthy and uncertain appeal process,” said Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash in a released statement. “The settlement is much preferable to the trial court ruling.”
State law requires cities and counties to define service districts and specify how the services will be funded as part of a service delivery strategy (SDS) agreement. The last Gwinnett County SDS agreement was to have been revised in 2009, but the county and municipal governments failed to reach an agreement. Gwinnett County filed a lawsuit in 2009 and the case went to trial in 2010. In September 2011, the trial judge issued a ruling which the county appealed.
“It’s worth repeating that countless hours of negotiations and a great deal of hard work went into reaching this settlement,” Nash said. “The issues surrounding service delivery and funding would not have been resolved without the commitment of all the elected officials involved – mayors, council members and commissioners.”