A Peachtree City resident, John Dufresne, is requesting a refund of $30 from the city government, contending it overcharged him for registration of his golf cart. He cites state law in support of his position.
And he has some support from other residents, to the extent that the city Monday issued a news release, “Get the facts on golf cart registration fees.”
First, below is the city’s rebuttal position:
“The City’s legal counsel does not agree with the legal analysis provided by others on this issue, and has prepared the following statement to provide clarification as to the City’s compliance with Georgia law:
“The city has received inquiries concerning the fees charged for golf carts that use the City’s path system.
“The fees charged by the City were established in accordance with Georgia law. O.C.G.A. 40-6-331(b) provides that a local authority may, by ordinance, require local registration and licensing of PTVs operated within its boundaries AT LEAST once every five years for a fee not to exceed $15. That statute, by its terms, does not limit the City to charging one fee every five years. Rather, the statute allows the city to charge the relevant fees AT LEAST once every five years. To that end, the City can charge a fee for every year.
“The City can also charge user fees for persons who use golf carts on the City’s path system. Under Georgia law, those fees are to approximate the cost of incurred by the City to provide the service or amenity. The City spends in excess of $3 million per year to maintain the path system. To that end, the fees charged for golf carts using the path system cover only a fraction of the overall cost of maintaining the paths. User fees can be appropriated between city residents and non-residents, given that a portion of taxes paid by city residents are allocated by the City for path maintenance.”
Now below is Dufresne’s argument that the city owes a lot of people refunds:
SUBJECT: Claim for Refund of Excess Golf Cart Registration Fee Illegally Collected
Dear Mayor and Council Members:
I request a $30.00 refund of the $45 golf cart registration and licensing fee paid for the 2023-2025 registration period, decal number XXXXX.
The Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.), §40-6-331(b) was amended in 2014 to specify a registration period. It states, “…a local authority may, by ordinance, require the local registration and licensing of PTVs operated within its boundaries at least once every five years for a fee not to exceed $15.00.”
Five years is the maximum time period allowed between registrations. Shorter registration periods are authorized such as once every four, three, or two years, or every year (annually).
Regardless of the registration period chosen, the maximum fee collected cannot exceed $15.
The City Council approved a three-year registration period at their January 17, 2016, council meeting. The record of meeting minutes includes these statements, “She [Betsy Tyler] pointed out that state law on golf cart registration had changed in 2014 to allow annual registration for golf carts. The maximum registration fee remained $15.”, “The City fees would increase from $12 … to $15 (per year, paid every three years).” and “…City residents would register every three years for $45.”
The city ordinance Section 78-92 (a)(3)a.1. was amended to read, “Registration year: $45.00 (for the subsequent three-calendar year period).” The ordinance section doesn’t comply with state law.
The 2022 golf cart registration renewal notice sent to residents owning golf carts clearly states in three locations that the renewal period is 2023-2025, a three-year period. It also states the “Fee Amount” is $45.
The $45 fee the city collects is illegal because it exceeds, by $30, the maximum $15 fee allowed by state law.
O.C.G.A. §48-5-380 provides for a taxpayer to claim a refund for a license fee they allege was collected illegally or erroneously. This written claim meets the statutory requirement, Dufresne concluded.