Local sales tax negotiations beginning

Published 10:48 am Friday, July 13, 2012

Decatur County and Attapulgus, Bainbridge, Brinson and Climax officials have already held several meetings concerning how to best distribute future local option sales tax (LOST) proceeds.

The LOST is a one-cent sales tax that has been collected since 1975, and it is intended to help lessen the burden on property tax payers. Every 10 years, roughly after the completion of a new U.S. Census, local government representatives must negotiate how those tax proceeds should be doled out.

Approximately $4.5 million is collected each year in LOST proceeds.

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County Administrator Gary Breedlove explained that the most recent LOST distribution was 2.46 percent to Attapulgus, 41.38 percent to Bainbridge, 1.08 percent to Brinson, 1.63 percent to Climax, and 53.45 percent to unincorporated Decatur County. That distribution was based almost entirely on population.

However, state legislation requires LOST negotiations to take into account additional factors besides population, Breedlove said. One of those main factors is “service delivery,” which entails what services each entity provides (such as water, police or EMS), and how many people use that service.

As an example, Breedlove noted that Decatur County provides EMS services to the entire county, and that would need to be taken into account in the LOST negotiations.

“The big theme right now is, what are the financial resources needed to provide a particular service to the citizens,” he said. “Historically the distribution was generally based on population, but that’s only one of numerous considerations now.”

Breedlove is the negotiator for Decatur County. City Manager Chris Hobby is representing the City of Bainbridge, and Mayors Johnny Medley of Attapulgus, Jimmy Earp of Brinson and Charles Hadsock of Climax represent their respective municipalities.

Breedlove said the five representatives have already had two meetings, and are scheduled to meet again either next Thursday or shortly thereafter.

“Our parties are cordial, but obviously we all have self-interest,” he said. “It’s a tough economic time and certainly everybody is hoping to do better [in terms of an increased share of LOST distribution]. Nobody wants to do worse.”

Breedlove said the five entities started discussions on June 28. From that starting date, they have 60 days to arrive at a consensus. If the parties are unable to agree at the end of those 60 days, an impartial arbitrator will make a recommendation.

If the parties are unable to agree after 120 days, the matter will be decided by a non-Decatur County Superior Court.