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Hall commissioners to consider new local option sales tax certificate

POSTED: October 15, 2013 12:07 a.m.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners is expected to vote this afternoon on a new distribution certificate for local option sales tax revenue, but it may not differ much from the current distribution.

Hall and Gainesville, on behalf of the other Hall County cities, couldn’t decide last year how to distribute the LOST funds. The current LOST certificate was extended from a Dec. 31, 2012, deadline because the cities and Hall were waiting for court arbitration.

The Georgia Supreme Court ruled last week the baseball arbitration approved by the General Assembly in 2009 is unconstitutional.

Hall County Administrator Randy Knighton said the special called commission meeting today at 4 p.m. at the Hall County Government Center in Gainesville was in response to a suggestion from the Association County Commissioners of Georgia. ACCG has talked with the Department of Revenue and the Georgia Attorney General’s Office.

“(ACCG) has advised us that each county who has been engaged in the LOST arbitration proceedings submit a new LOST certificate to the Revenue Department this week,” Knighton said.

Knighton declined Monday to say what type of distribution commissioners are likely to approve, but he did say officials have not discussed the “best and final offer” that each side submitted to retired Superior Court Judge Frank Mills earlier this year.

Gainesville Mayor Pro Tem Bob Hamrick, City Manager Kip Padgett and Assistant City Manager Angela Sheppard declined to return calls Monday seeking comment. Lula City Manager Dennis Bergin said he hadn’t heard of any decision reached between the cities and Hall County.

LOST is a 1 percent sales tax that is collected on an ongoing basis with counties and cities revisiting the distribution formula every 10 years with the census count.

The revised law for the sales tax called for parties that couldn’t agree on new terms to go into nonbinding mediation. If the parties still couldn’t agree, the legislature mandated court baseball arbitration.

In baseball arbitration, a Superior Court judge would hear the best and final offer from the cities and the counties and make a decision based on several criteria, including population, service delivery responsibility and intergovernmental agreements.

Currently, LOST is distributed with Hall getting 75.49 percent and the cities getting 24.51 percent. Hall’s best and final offer was the county getting 73.58 percent and the cities getting 26.42 percent.

Gainesville also gave a best and final offer, with the county getting 70 percent and the cities receiving 30 percent.

The matter went to the state’s highest court after Turner County appealed when a judge ruled in favor of the cities of Ashburn, Rebecca and Sycamore.

ACCG advocated its position on the Supreme Court ruling to Attorney General Sam Olens last week, which is that counties continue to file notice and collect money under the old process.

“The counties and cities that relied on the law at the time filed notice saying they wanted to continue the old formula for splitting the money until such time as they reached a final resolution under this resolution process,” said Clint Mueller, legislative director of ACCG.


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