Milledgeville City Council came out of a closed session Tuesday evening with an approved proposal to Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) distribution. The proposal and related matters were submitted to the Baldwin County negotiating team Wednesday morning, according to City Attorney Jimmy Jordan. Any changes will come back to the City Council.
The county commission approved a LOST distribution scale Nov. 6 in a regular board meeting in hopes of ending discrepancies between the two parties.
Last week Commissioner Sammy Hall, District 3, reiterated how quickly an agreement must be reached on the tax formula. Tuesday’s resolution provides the answer to the county’s end product.
The City of Milledgeville gave the county leeway with the 10-year formula. An average annual increase of 1.368 percent with a significant increase in the first year starting Jan.1, 2013 gives the county additional revenue.
Jordan said City Council understood the financial strain.
“We recognized that the county is having some financial difficulty. That impacts all of us because if the county has to increase property tax that affects city residents. We gave the county a greater percentage of the LOST,” Jordan said.
For giving up some LOST percentage, the proposal provides the city with control of the lower parking deck at the Baldwin County Courthouse. The term runs concurrent with the 10-year LOST distribution agreement.
The proposal reads: “the city shall enforce a 2-hour parking limit on all spaces in the lower deck, with the exception of any spaces that are designated for permit parking.”
Jordan felt possessing operational control of the deck helps the city.
“The City of Milledgeville wants to be able to control the lower deck. The city felt it was important for the downtown merchants and the people coming downtown to have that area available,” the city attorney said.
As part of the LOST proposal, the city shall also designate six parking spaces adjacent to the courthouse on Wilkinson Street as 30-minute parking only. City and county will share enforcement.
The resolution also states that the City of Milledgeville can provide water and sewer services to Andalusia, which totals 531 acres on two parcels. If accepted, the county grants consent to the annexation of Andalusia should the owner petition the city.
Due to time constraints, both governments agreed to open dialogue about a new sewage treatment agreement and the city’s E911 plans.
“We agreed to sit down with the county in good faith to try and reach a resolution that’s beneficial to both,” Jordan said.
The LOST is a 1 percent sales tax imposed on the purchase, sale, rental, storage, use or consumption of tangible personal property and related services. The special district tax boundaries are the same as Georgia's 159 county lines.
The tax is imposed in qualified municipalities on the sale of motor fuels, and in most counties applies to food and alcoholic beverage sale also. LOST is one of the most significant revenue sources for municipal state governments, accounting for 16 percent of general fund revenues, according to the Georgia Municipal Association.
Renegotiation is triggered by the new federal census every 10 years. With mediation between the City of Milledgeville and Baldwin County over, the two sides have until Nov. 26 to file a new tax distribution intergovernmental agreement.
A 30-day window opened Oct. 27, giving both sides a short time to agree or face baseball arbitration in a judge's hands.
“We are so close it would be a shame if we could not come to an agreement,” Jordan said. “Hopefully we avoid the expense and uncertainty of having to do that.”
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