After robust population growth, Gainesville is set to get a greater share of Hall County sales tax money over the next 10 years.
Once a decade, most Georgia counties renegotiate how local option sales tax money will get distributed. The one-penny sales tax, also called LOST, must be agreed upon by the county and cities making up 50% or more of the municipal population.
Gainesville has more than 63% of the population of Hall County cities, so if it agrees to the proposal, that proposal will pass.
LOST is similar to other local option sales taxes such as SPLOST, which is used for specific capital projects voted on by residents in a referendum. LOST money is used for general government operations.
LOST revenue for Hall County government totaled about $33.8 million in 2021 and was at about $27.8 million through March 2022 for the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30.
City and county officials met Tuesday, May 24, to hear the proposal from Hall County, which would distribute LOST revenue proportionate to the population of each jurisdiction.
Gainesville’s Chief Financial Officer Jeremy Perry said he preferred to distribute the revenue by population as the county proposed.
Local Option Sales Tax proposed split
Unincorporated Hall County: 67.41% for 136,939 people
Gainesville: 20.82%, 42,296
Flowery Branch: 4.62%, 9,391
Oakwood: 2.38%, 4,822
Braselton: 1.6%, 3,254
Buford: 1.31%, 2,665
Lula: 1.24%, 2,511
Clermont: 0.5%, 1,021
Gillsville: 0.11%, 212
Rest Haven: .01%, 25
Gainesville has collected about $6.5 million from LOST revenue so far this fiscal year, which ends June 30 and it makes up about 18% of the city’s budget, Perry said.
Gainesville picked up a greater share of the population since the last negotiation in 2013, increasing from 17.4% to about 20.8%. Gainesville grew from 33,804 residents in 2010 to 42,296 in 2020, according to census data, about a 25% increase.
Flowery Branch would also get a greater share of revenue, increasing from 2.9% to 4.6%.
Unincorporated Hall County lost some share of the population, dropping from 74.4% to 67.4%. Hall County’s total population is 203,136, as of the 2020 census.
The previous negotiation was done proportionate to the 2010 census, Perry said, though there are eight criteria that can be considered when negotiating including sales tax generated by each jurisdiction and consideration of the services provided by each jurisdiction.
Lula City Manager Dennis Bergin said he was concerned his city population was undercounted in the census, but appeals can take years and would only affect future census counts. Each city is stuck with the 2020 census count, and no population estimates for 2021 have yet been released.
The 2020 census was delayed because of complications related to the COVID-19 pandemic and data was released late last summer.
Hall County and all nine municipalities whose boundaries are partially in the county have until July 23 to submit their resolution to the Department of Revenue.