While it appears Upson County and the cities of Thomaston and Yatesville may be in agreement on keeping the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) percentages for each government the same, the sticking point in the LOST negotiations may be how much the City of Thomaston is paying for county services.
LOST is a one percent sales tax. The percentage of revenue collected from the tax is re-negotiated between counties and cities every 10 years based on the census, and can be determined by a variety of criteria, including population and delivery of services. Upson County passed the first LOST in 1980, with collections beginning in 1981. The percentage of revenue agreed upon at that time was 55 percent for the county, 43 percent for Thomaston, and two percent for Yatesville.
At a LOST negotiations meeting Tuesday afternoon, Upson County Commission Chairman Maurice Raines made a proposal to keep the percentages of the LOST as they have been for the last 31 years, if the City of Thomaston will consider paying more for the delivery services provided by the county.
Thomaston Mayor Hays Arnold responded to the offer by stating that the city would be interested in the county’s offer and in looking at the service delivery strategy and the current amount being paid for those services, once the city receives information it requested from the county in an open records request made more than a year ago.
There was no argument over the percentages, but that was the only item on which the county and city appeared to agree. The rest of the meeting degenerated into bickering between Upson and Thomaston representatives over the issue of the county providing the tax documents requested by the city, communication issues between the two, and the portion of SPLOST funds the county is providing to the city.
In May, the city filed suit against the county, claiming that an open records request it first made a year ago has yet to be fulfilled by the county.
Chairman Raines questioned why the city sent him the requests when County Manager Kyle Hood handles such requests. Raines also questioned why city officials couldn’t just walk down the hall to county offices and make their requests, rather than going through official channels.
In response, City Manager Patrick Comiskey stated that he hand delivered the requests to the city’s Chief Financial Officer and Clerk.
Raines stated that the city’s request wanted information from up to 13 years ago and that he wasn’t even sure the county kept such information that long. He also stated that the amount of information the city requested was more than the four-person staff the county has in the office can handle any quicker.
Raines changed the subject by noting that he felt the county had been more than fair to the city in last year’s SPLOST negotiations and had even given the city a million more dollars than they should have received.
When questioned by the city on that statement, Commissioner Steve Hudson said based on a formula developed by the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG), the county should have received a higher percentage of the SPLOST revenue than it approved in the agreement with the city.
City representatives contested that formula and the county’s viewpoint.
With no compromise or agreement on those issues in sight, the meeting was adjourned after 35 minutes. The county and cities will meet again next Tuesday at 5 p.m. in the basement meeting room of the Archives building to continue the LOST negotiations.