Peach County enters closed LOST mediation

chwright@macon.comSeptember 17, 2012 

Officials from Peach County and its cities have entered private negotiations over the distribution of a one-cent sales tax, according to Peach County administrator Marcia Johnson.

Johnson said county leaders met with Atlanta-based mediator R. Wayne Thorpe, of JAMS, in an executive session Monday to review the Peach County local option sales tax distribution. The cities met with Thorpe later in the day.

“We just talked in general terms about what our position was and what we understood the county’s to be,” Fort Valley Mayor John Stumbo said in a voice message.

The county and its cities must decide how to split revenue from the LOST for the next 10 years, as Georgia law requires of all counties whose governments share the sales tax.

The two groups will meet together with Thorpe Sept. 24 for an all-day session. The meeting will also be an executive session, as allowed under new Georgia public meetings laws.

Currently, Peach County receives 60 percent of the LOST, Fort Valley receives 31.5 percent and Byron receives 8.5 percent. The LOST generated about $35.8 million between January 2003 and May 2012.

Officials of Peach County, Byron, Fort Valley and Warner Robins met among themselves during open sessions in July and August but were unable to reach a resolution. After 60 days, law dictated they seek a mediator.

The officials have 60 days in mediation to reach an agreement. Otherwise, they will be forced to go to a judge, who will decide. The last stage is a new step state legislators have added.

As of the last public discussion, Byron and Fort Valley wanted to split 53 percent, while County Commission Chairman Melvin Walker said the county won’t take less than 60 percent. Warner Robins, which has a small portion of the city in Peach County, also wants a piece of the pie.

To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685

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