Upson County Attorney Ed Trice and City of Thomaston Attorney Joel Bentley are expected to bring a draft agreement on the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) to the LOST meeting Tuesday afternoon that could be approved by the county and the cities of Thomaston and Yatesville. The agreement will state that the one percent LOST will be divided into the same percentages that it has been for the past 31 years – 55 percent for the county, 43 percent for Thomaston, and 2 percent for Yatesville.
But the LOST meetings may be far from over, if the meeting last Tuesday evening was any indication. Thomaston came prepared to start discussing service delivery and did not want to leave until they had done so.
The meeting opened with Upson County Commission Chairman Maurice Raines stating that the Commissioners were proposing an agreement that would keep the LOST percentages the same, if Thomaston would be willing to enter into negotiations over the amount being paid for services provided by the county.
This was in contrast to the proposal Raines appeared to make the previous week, which implied the county wanted the city to pay more for county services, and City Attorney Joel Bentley and Mayor Hays Arnold both sought verification that the county was offering the same percentage rates and to just negotiate in good faith on service delivery, rather than proposing the city pay more. When Raines affirmed that offer, Mayor Arnold stated they were willing to discuss service delivery.
“You can rest assured, and you have my word, that we will most definitely be addressing service delivery issues at another point,” said Arnold.
“I said all along that our proposition is that we would consider leaving the percentages the same,” replied Raines, “if the city will be look at the services provided for everybody in the totality of Upson County; that we work together to come up with an amount that we both agree upon to do this, and that’s where we stand.”
City Manager Patrick Comiskey noted that it was also implied at the last meeting that the county would be presenting its tax equity study and providing the city with what the county wanted paid for its services.
Raines stated that was incorrect, that the county would look at what the city would be willing to do for services provided to the community.
Comiskey stated that the city has prepared a presentation that gave a picture on spending in Upson County for all sectors of the economy.
Raines stated that while he did not have a problem with the presentation, it was not part of the meeting on negotiating LOST and was not tied into it.
Arnold objected, stating that Raines was just expressing his opinion and that is was his (Arnold’s) opinion that the presentation was a part of the meeting.
County Attorney Ed Trice and City Attorney Bentley then suggested they be allowed to draw up a draft agreement on the LOST percentages for the governing bodies to look at next Tuesday. Raines, Arnold, and Yatesville Mayor Cecil Moncrief agreed to allow them to do so.
The city then made its presentation, which claimed that while the annual payroll for industry and the City of Thomaston has declined in the last 10 years, the payroll for Upson County government has increased.
Commissioner Steve Hudson had also prepared a presentation, but Chairman Raines asked him to distribute it after the meeting. At the request of Mayor Arnold, Raines agreed that Arnold will chair the meeting next Tuesday.
Following the meeting, Hudson distributed his presentation, which claimed that city residents get more property tax relief from LOST than do residents in unincorporated Upson County.