If an agreement can’t be reached by Dec. 31, the county’s LOST certificate will lapse and the 1-cent tax would no longer be collected. Then, in order to collect the tax again, a new referendum would have to be drawn and put back before voters.
Carroll County residents now pay 7 cents sales tax per dollar. Four cents goes to the state, with 1 cent each to the SPLOST, the education SPLOST and LOST.
The LOST referendum was passed by Carroll County voters in 1977 as a means to roll back property taxes. Every 10 years, the county and cities must meet to decide how the money will be split up among them, using new census data. State law requires that an agreement be signed by the county and representation from more than 50 percent of the county’s municipality population. The city of Carrollton itself exceeds that percentage.
“We spent all day Monday until about 6 p.m., but we were unable to reach a resolution,” county Commission Chairman Bill Chappell said. “But the vast majority of the cities did reach an agreement with state law.”
Chappell said the county will now pursue an intergovernmental agreement with Carrollton and then work on individual agreements with the other cities. By state law, Carrollton’s signature is all that’s needed.
“The agreement between Carrollton and the county would establish the percentage the county is allocated,” he said. “The remaining funds would be distributed by state law, with the remaining cities’ percentages based on population.”
Chappell pledged that some agreement would be in place by the end of the year to avoid loss of the tax funds.
“We’re not going to lose funds by forfeiture,” he said. “None of the cities or the county can afford it. On tax bills, the millage rate is 12 percent, but the LOST tax allows a rollback to 8.5 percent. It’s a very fair tax.”
Chappell has submitted two proposed division schedules, but both have been rejected by some of the cities.
The last proposed schedule would give Carroll County 58.46 percent; Bowdon 2.5; Bremen 0.32; Carrollton 24.5; Mt. Zion 1.53; Roopville 0.2; Temple 3.5; Villa Rica 7.5; and Whitesburg 1.
The Board of Commissioners rejected the proposal and voted 5-2 on Sept. 4 to send the decision to arbitration. Chappell and District 5 Commissioner Kevin Jackson cast the dissenting votes against mediation.
While the city representatives involved in this week’s mediation process are bound by non-disclosure agreements not to talk about the specifics of the negotiations, all who were reached Thursday afternoon by the Times-Georgian expressed confidence that some solution will be worked out by the end of the year.
Carrollton Mayor Wayne Garner said Thursday that Carrollton has been willing, all along, to accept the proposed 24.5 percent, but the county Board of Commissioners turned down the contract.
“All the negotiations are over,” Garner said. “I don’t think it would make any difference for everybody to spend another day together. We need to get this settled and we can by a vote of the BOC and city of Carrollton.”
He said his understanding is that if the county and Carrollton, as the only city with more than 50 percent of the municipal population, can sign an agreement, the remainder of the city funds will be divided among the others cities, based on population.
“It’s not a personal issue with me,” Garner said. “I understand the cities want to get all they can. We need to be cautious and not let it get personal and tempers flare. We all have to get along.”
“We just want to be comfortable with the agreement because it’s for 10 years,” Villa Rica Mayor J. Collins said. “I’m committed to doing what’s best for all cities. We want to be fair with the way the money is divided up. I feel we can come to some kind of terms before the end of the year.”
Bowdon Mayor Keith Crawford said his city is happy with the last proposal of 2.5 percent.
“I’m very confident something will be worked out,” Crawford said. “I know everybody’s working hard to get it done.”
Bremen City Manager Perry Hicks said his city is a “minor player” in Carroll County, but he feels confident some type of resolution will take place.
“We put forth our positions on our economic abilities and gross sales, but we advanced the same position as in past meetings,” Hicks said. “Where it goes from here, I don’t know.”
Mt. Zion Mayor Randy Sims said he was comfortable with the county’s offer at the beginning of mediation.
“We were certainly happy with what was proposed,” he said. “There’s not much left for Mt. Zion and the smaller cities to negotiate on. We’re mostly at the mercy of the larger municipalities to see what they come up with.”
Roopville Mayor Bob Merrell said he’s happy that “everybody’s still talking” and he assumes it will be resolved fairly.
“We don’t want a slice of the pie, just a few crumbs,” he said. “I hope we can continue getting what we were getting. I assume we’ll get our share. I guess that’s all we can ask for.”
Whitesburg Mayor Amy Wiliford said she also “feels like it will be worked out.”
“I think everybody will end up being happy,” Chappell said Thursday. “When all is said and done, all the cities will sign on.”