FORT VALLEY -- Leaders of Peach County governments met Thursday in their second Intergovernmental Meeting to discuss issues that affect all three governments.
“It’s for a couple of different reasons,” said Peach County Commission Chairman Melvin Walker. “One is to get to know each other on a personal level. The second is to discuss some of the issues that affect everybody.”
The discussion ranged from the county’s special purpose local option sales tax renewal that is on the March ballot to state issues that could affect local operations and economies. Elected officials from the city of Byron, the city of Fort Valley, Peach County, the Fort Valley Utilities Commission, and the Board of Educations were present.
Walker said the meetings “fell off” three or fours years ago, but the commissioners and cities budgeted for the events last year. Hosting responsibilities, including the cost of dinner, rotates among the governmental bodies. Fort Valley hosted Thursday’s meeting at the Austin Theatre.
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“It’s a small budget; we just included it in our marking efforts,” he said, adding he didn’t know the exact amount Peach County budgeted.
Sales taxes ruled the discussion with the officials addressing the county SPLOST, a proposed state-mandated regional transportation SPLOST and the division of the county’s portion of the statewide local option sales tax.
Fort Valley Mayor John Stumbo said the three governments must decide every 10 years how to divide the county’s portion of the 4-percent LOST. The county currently receives the largest amount of the portion, Stumbo said, though sales taxes generate more in the cities. Division, he said, is up to the local governments.
“For the next three months, starting pretty soon, the three of us will be in negotiations on that,” Stumbo said.
On top of that tax is a SPLOST renewal, which officials estimate will generate about $21.7 million between 2015 and 2021. The penny sales tax has been in place since 1985.
“I’m cautious about telling anybody it won’t raise your property taxes,” Walker told the room of officials. “We say it will hold down property taxes. Because we’re looking into 2020.”
The current SPLOST isn’t due for a renewal for three years but Walker said the county wanted to get ahead of the state-proposed July T-SPLOST vote.
“The citizens are used to that 7 percent sales tax,” Walker said, noting the approval of both the T-SPLOST and of the SPLOST would increase the county’s sales tax to 8 percent.
The General Assembly voted last year to ask voters to impose a regional penny sales tax for road projects. Peach, Houston and Bibb counties are part of the 11-county region in Middle Georgia.
Byron Councilman Michael Chidester warned the officials to be wary of what a regional transportation fund could mean for state money. He said he fears state officials could begin to think they’re not responsible for transportation improvements, but vouched for the measure.
“We need to support it, and I encourage all of y’all to support it,” Chidester said.
The T-SPLOST discussion was part of a short presentation Stumbo gave on six issues he and other political figures from around the state addressed at the annual Mayor’s Day, sponsored by the Georgia Municipal Association in Atlanta.
He also mentioned the state’s efforts to deepen the Savannah port, which he said is the largest in the nation, in preparation for traffic from a widened Panama Canal. He said both are expected to be completed by 2014.
To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.