Peach County LOST hearing postponed

chwright@macon.comJanuary 15, 2013 

A court hearing for Peach County and its cities to present plans for a new sales tax distribution has been postponed.

“We were going to see if there was any way in the world we could settle it short of an arbitration hearing,” Fort Valley Mayor John Stumbo said Tuesday.

Judge Loring Gray, of Dougherty Superior Court, said the county and cities asked to postpone their Wednesday court date until February while they make more attempts to agree on a new distribution of the local option sales tax. A new date has not been set, he said.

Peach County, Fort Valley and Byron officials blew through their Dec. 31 deadline to decide a new LOST distribution, which the state requires every 10 years. The governments have been at a stand-off since open negotiations in July.

The county wants no less than the 60 percent it currently receives. The cities insist they deserve more. Fort Valley currently receives 31.5 percent, and Byron receives 8.5 percent.

Arbitration is a new and final step during which a judge will make a decision for disagreeable governments. Until Gray does so for Peach County, the distribution will remain the same -- unless there is an agreement among the governments before then.

Peach County Commission Chairman Melvin Walker said he is still hopeful for an internal agreement.

“Both parties can’t win in arbitration,” Walker said. “There’s a happy medium that we can all meet where we could all benefit.”

Stumbo said he would like to remain optimistic, but the conversations between the cities and the county haven’t gone well. “My suspicions are that we’re at such an impasse that we’re probably going to have to have a judge decide,” Stumbo said.

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

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