Two percent for Yatesville. Judging from a report on the LOST negotiations Thomaston City Manager Patrick Comiskey gave at the Thomaston Kiwanis Club Tuesday, two percent of the Local Options Sales Tax (LOST) funds for the City of Yatesville may be the only thing the City of Thomaston and Upson County have agreed on during mediation proceedings. Two percent is what the City of Yatesville is requesting.
LOST negotiations are done every 10 years, with a variety of criteria set by the state legislature used to determine the percentages each government in a county receives. For the past 30 years, the LOST proceeds have been split the same way, with Upson County getting 55 percent, Thomaston getting 43 percent, and Yatesville getting 2 percent.
Comiskey stated he was told by City Attorney Joel Bentley that in mediation Upson County is proposing that the county receive 72 percent of the LOST proceeds, Thomaston would receive 26 percent, and Yatesville receive 2 percent. When asked what the city’s proposal is, Comiskey said the city is proposing 60 percent for Thomaston, 38 percent for Upson County, and 2 percent for Yatesville.
In joint meetings throughout July and August, Thomaston and Upson were unable to agree upon a percentage of the LOST funds, with a disagreement over services provided by the city and county to residents, and who will pay for those services, a large part of the failure to reach an agreement. At one point in July, it appeared that a pact had been reached when the county made a proposal at one meeting to keep the percentage splits the same as they have been for the last 30 years if the city would agree to negotiate in good faith on the service delivery issues. At the next meeting, after the agreement had been drawn up by County Attorney Ed Trice and City Attorney Joel Bentley, city representatives agreed to the proposal, but county representatives balked, saying the county was giving up too much and they did not believe the city would negotiate on the service delivery.
Failing to reach an agreement by the end of August deadline set by the state, the negotiations moved into the mediation state, with all three governments agreeing to pay an attorney from Macon to handle the mediation. If an agreement is not reached by the end of October, or if one of the governments doesn’t like the agreement, the negotiations could move to the courts, with an out-of-district Superior Court judge being called upon to weigh the proposals from both sides and make a final decision before the December 31 deadline.
At the Kiwanis meeting, Comiskey presented information showing that over the last 10 years, the economy and the closing of the mills have forced commercial businesses in the county to tighten their belts, reducing the number of employees and shrinking their payrolls. The city manager showed that the City of Thomaston has done the same thing, reducing the number of city employees and payroll, and keeping tight strings on its budget. But, said Comiskey, during the same time period, the county government has increased both in size and payroll. While city wages have been reduced by 15 percent, the county payroll has increased by 36 percent and general fund expenditures have increased by 41 percent.
Comiskey said now that the county is starting to feel the results of its spending, it is wanting more of the LOST funds to cover its costs.
“I feel we have been good stewards of the city by keeping our budget and payroll down, and shouldn’t be penalized for that by losing LOST funds,” Comiskey said. “If the county had been good stewards, they would have $10 million in the bank right now and wouldn’t need more LOST funds.”