This sales tax is used primarily to offset property taxes by covering expenses otherwise paid for from property taxes. Like the other sales taxes the county has (SPLOST, E-SPLOST) or is considering (T-SPLOST), it has to be approved by the voters, unless it was in place before 1980, but unlike those, it does not have specific projects or an end date.
To charge this 1-cent sales tax, the county and qualified cities have to agree to a percentage split on the proceeds, which County Manager William Wilson Jr., estimated at $650,000 a month or about $7.5 to $8 million a year. The upcoming negotiations, which the county and qualified cities have to do every 10 years, two years following the federal census, will on how the proceeds are split, based on population and services provided.
The current split is 60 percent for the county and 40 percent for the City of Griffin. Wilson explained Sunny Side and Orchard Hill do not meet the state’s standards as qualified cities as they do not provide enough services.
According to the Georgia Municipal Association, qualified cities must charge property tax and provide at least three of the six following services: water, sewerage, garbage collection, police service, fire service, or a library.
Wilson explained there is a time line, by state law for the negotiations.
“We have to notify the city by July 1,” and the state Department of Revenue must be notified of the intent to start negotiations. And 60 days after starting, there must be an agreement or submission to non-binding arbitration, which Wilson referred to a “baseball arbitration.”
He explained that in the past, a judge could come up with a solution if the two sides could not agree. Now, it’s one side or the other. If arbitration is not requested and there’s no agreement, the LOST could terminate as of Dec. 31, 2012.
The county commissioners voted unanimously to authorize Wilson to work with the Griffin city manager to appoint a mediator who is trained both in LOST and mediation and to determine date of commencement for negotiations. Wilson said he wanted to do this up front, “so we don’t get into this and then can’t agree on a mediator. It is not one of the more pleasant times to be a city or county commissioner.”
Wilson plans to have the name of mediator for the board to vote on and send on the city by the county board’s special called meeting, at 5:45 p.m., June 28, where the budget is scheduled for a final vote.
Per state law, both parties have to vote at an open meeting to agree to the LOST split. But Wilson said due to open meetings and open records concerns, the full boards would not be participating in the negotiations and he would be meeting individually with each county commissioner to discuss the county’s position going into the negotiations.
Commission Chairman Gwen Flower-Taylor asked fellow commissioner Raymond Ray to represent the county in the negotiations, explaining that since her sister, Cynthia Ward, is city commission chair, she “didn’t feel comfortable participating in the negotiations.” Her daughter, Cora Flowers, is also a city commissioner.