Yatesville Mayor Cecil Moncrief is hoping that the LOST (Local Option Sales Tax) negotiations can be settled in mediation, because he doesn’t see a happy ending for anyone if it goes before a judge for a final decision.
During the weekly LOST negotiation meetings in July and August, Moncrief sat on the dais along side of Upson County Chairman Maurice Raines and Thomaston Mayor Hays Arnold. But other than agreeing to keep the LOST percentages the same (55 percent for the county, 43 percent for Thomaston, and 2 percent for Yatesville) he had little to say as city and county representatives bickered back and forth about who will pay for service delivery.
At the Yatesville City Council meeting Monday night, Mayor Moncrief updated the council on the LOST negotiations.
“I do not know what to say about it,” he said. “It really upsets me that we have to go through all this about the split on this thing. I think it is really unnecessary. But it is going to mediation, and I just hope that in this medication it will be resolved and not go before a judge, because if we go before a judge, nobody may like the outcome. “
According to the U. S. Census Bureau, Yatesville has only 356 residents. But the small town is a qualified city under Georgia law because it provides water service, garbage service, and fire protection for its citizens. While Upson County and the City of Thomaston depend on property tax revenue for their budgets, Yatesville does not collect property tax from its residents, instead depending on the 2 percent of LOST revenue that it has been receiving for the last 31 years to meet its financial obligations. But Yatesville did set its millage rate last week, just like the city and county, and Mayor Moncrief said if Yatesville loses its 2 percent of LOST, the city will be forced to collect property tax to make ends meet.
“This is something that can help everybody, but Upson County has spent thousands of dollars on a tax equity study,” Moncrief added. “The city wants to do one. Now we’re going to mediation. All this has to be paid for and all this comes out of your tax base. I don’t know what this mediator charges – I think $150 an hour – and I don’t know how many hours he is going to put in, but I am sure it is going to be several hours. So that is something that we’ll have to go for. The county will go, the city will go, then Yatesville will go. I’m going to defend for two percent, the same thing we’ve had. Yatesville been asked if we’re satisfied with two percent, and I’ve agreed both times it has been asked, and I’m going to try my best to keep it.
“If they go by the population, we probably will be cut, but we’re going to try to keep this where it is at. It is not so much the split as it is the service delivery agreements. That’s the biggest drawback in all of this. They pretty much agreed three times on the 55, 43, and 2 percent. That was pretty much a done deal. But then we’ve come back on service delivery – who is going to pay this and who is going to pay that. The county is paying this and the city is paying that, the county has gone up on their payroll and the city has gone down on theirs, and it is just bickering back and forth. It’s going to go to mediation and it will turn out what it turns out. So we’ll see what happens.”