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Hall County tax-sharing talks will go to court
County, cities fail to reach deal on how to divide sales tax money
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A judge will have the final say on how Hall County and its municipalities will split sales tax revenues after independent and mediated talks between the governments fell through.

County and city officials confirmed Friday that local option sales tax revenue-sharing negotiations, which have been ongoing for months, will go to arbitration in superior court.

“We’re hoping it wouldn’t, but it does look like it’s going to arbitration,” Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan said.

According to a joint statement from Hall County and Gainesville officials, the two groups have “jointly filed a petition seeking arbitration with the courts.”

That petition was filed Nov. 15. No court date has been set.

The process is called “baseball arbitration” and an outside judge will hear the case. Each side will preset its “best and final offer” and the judge will choose one. The decision is final.

“So many times you have people with a difference of opinion as to the services provided or not provided,” said Tom Oliver, Hall County Board of Commissioners chairman. “It’s not unusual for this to happen. We couldn’t come to an agreement, so we’ll let an independent source establish the ruling.”

In August, LOST revenue-sharing negotiations between leaders in Hall County failed to reach a terminus and, per law, mediation was required. Mediation failed after less than half a day.

LOST revenue is meant to help offset governments’ reliance on property taxes to fund day-to-day operations. How it’s distributed is determined every 10 years following a federal count of the population.

Hall County has proposed it keep about 75 percent of that revenue, nearly the same as the current agreement.

The county’s municipalities want to see that number at around 58 percent and have said they deserve a larger portion because of their individual economic impact.

But those proposals are likely not the ones that will wind up in front of a judge.

Dunagan said the cities have amended their proposal, specifically the percentage of revenue the cities get. He said that was done during previous discussions.

“We’ve amended it during our discussions and they (the county) just weren’t agreeable to it,” he said, adding that he couldn’t comment on specifics.

Oliver said the county could modify its proposal, but he doesn’t expect big changes.

“I’m sure both sides will change their submitted plans,” Oliver said. “Some of those plans were established for negotiations, and since negotiation isn’t going to be there, you’ve got to present a plan that’s realistic. I think that’s the secret.

“I think our (changes) are going to be very few, if any. I can’t say there won’t be some changes, but I think they’ll be very minor.”

If arbitration goes into the new year, the old agreement will continue until a new one is reached.

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