Peach County, cities want bigger piece of LOST

FORT VALLEY -- No proposed division of a Peach County local sales tax has been announced, though Wednesday’s negotiation meeting revealed the county and the cities expect a raise in their portions.

Peach County held its third negotiation meeting for the decennial split of the countywide local option sales tax, or LOST, which primarily included a presentation from the county’s consultant on the categorical reasons the county should receive a large portion of the penny sales tax.

“There is certainly a difference between the typical county approach and the typical city approach,” said Phil Sutton, of Sutton Consulting LLC, before launching into a slideshow of tables that showed the breakdown of the categories considered in the LOST.

Currently, Peach County receives 60 percent of the LOST, Fort Valley receives 31.5 percent and Byron receives 8.5 percent. Those terms end Dec. 31, unless the cities and county haven’t reached an agreement on the next distribution split.

The LOST generated about $35.8 million between January 2003 and May 2012.

Every county in the state must decide after each U.S. Census how to divide the LOST proceeds for the next 10 years.

It’s because of the recent census that Byron and Fort Valley mayors feel they are entitled to a larger portion than the current agreement.

The city of Byron grew from 2,887 residents in 2000 to 4,512 residents in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The city of Fort Valley grew from 8,005 residents in 2000 to 9,815 residents in 2010.

“Ten years ago, we decided to split it according to population,” said Mayor John Stumbo, of Fort Valley. “The populations of the cities has increased a lot.”

But Sutton’s presentation focused on population not being the sole factor in the negotiations. Georgia law requires the central business district, service delivery responsibilities, debt payments, points of sale, intergovernmental agreements and tax equity are also considered, he said.

Also, he said, the county’s entire population of 27,695 should be used, not the 12,941 residents in the unincorporated areas.

After the presentation, Byron Mayor Larry Collins and Stumbo agreed to review the information and come back for more discussion July 18 at 6 p.m. at the Peach County commissioner’s office.

Both mayors have said their cities should have a bigger portion of the LOST but have declined to name a figure.

Sutton’s presentation boiled down to 82.85 percent for the county and 17.15 percent for the two cities to split.

“I don’t want this to get where animosity develops because we still have to work together,” Stumbo said.

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