Decatur Co. Commission approves LOST tax, for now

Published 12:43am Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Decatur County Board of Commissioners met last night to make a decision on the distribution of the county’s Local Option Sales Tax revenue, a one-percent sales tax imposed on capital and services.
“Let’s keep the distribution like it is and get it off the table,” County Administrator Gary Breedlove said. “More time is needed for (other projects).”
The board voted to continue the distribution that’s been in effect for the past 11 years. They have temporarily extended their deadline to Dec. 31, 2014, to renegotiate the distribution of LOST revenue with the city of Bainbridge and other municipalities in the county.
“Hopefully we can come to an agreement before that date, but this in effect until then,” Board Chairman Russell Smith said. “If we couldn’t have come up with this agreement, the attorney general said he would stop all the distributions in the area, like Walmart. We wouldn’t be getting any sales tax.”
In July 2012, when the initial 10-year agreement of LOST distribution was to be reassessed, both the city of Bainbridge and the county board hired outside counsel to guide them through the agreement process.
“We have invested money in the research of where we were,” Breedlove said regarding the hiring of lawyers to help bring an agreement between the county and the city.
Dec. 30, 2012 was the deadline to file certificate with the Department of Revenue on the new distribution.
Ten months later, the board still has not reassessed their distribution. Instead, they voted to continue with the same distribution, despite paying outside counsel with taxpayers’ money.
The city and county filed suit against each other last year when they could not reach an initial agreement. The suit ultimately resulted in the Decatur County Superior Court ruling that the current law of a judge deciding the outcome of the redistribution between the county and its municipalities was unconstitutional.
“Under our constitution, the legislature is who fixes our taxes, not the judges,” Decatur County Attorney Brown Moseley said. “This decision has thrown a good number of counties and municipalities in the state into what I would call ‘turmoil.’”
Moseley said Decatur County and its municipalities have huddled together the last few days to reach an arrangement so they will continue to be able to use LOST revenue for funding services and capital.
If the county couldn’t come up with a solution with its municipalities by Thursday afternoon, they would be forced to pay for services with another source of revenue, most likely an increased property tax.
Currently, Bainbridge is allocated 41.38 percent of LOST revenue and Decatur County is allocated 53.45 percent.

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