The Fairmount City Council met Tuesday to discuss the state-mandated renegotiation with Gordon County for the distribution of the one percent LOST.
In the past, LOST revenues have been shared by Gordon County, Calhoun, Fairmount and Resaca according to population. Fairmount has seen a decrease in population of 3.3 percent, putting the proposed amount of LOST dollars for Fairmount at 1.95 percent, down from the 3.25 percent received in the past.
According to U.S. Census Bureau figures, Fairmount’s population is currently 720, down from 745 in 2000.
The 1.95 percent LOST share Fairmount would be entitled to would result in a loss of more than $146,000, from previous distributions.
“To compensate for the $146.760.46 lost, Fairmount would have to raise property taxes by $250.49 per home, an increase of 172 percent,” said Fairmount City Councilmember Jim Dodd.
Dodd also explains the LOST tax is money that goes into the city’s general fund to keep the millage rate and property taxes low.
Currently, Fairmount has set its millage rate at 5.00, while surrounding cities and Gordon County millage rates have increased, but Fairmount’s millage is not the lowest.
Fairmount city council members believe the loss of LOST dollars will potentially bankrupt the city, and say the only way to recoup the potential losses is to shut down many public services and facilities in the city.
“Services that we can cut, we are looking at that right now and negotiating it are, if we shut down our recreation center totally, the Community Center shut it down, and it can’t be used by anybody, cemetery maintenance, and our beautiful Tate Park shut down completely,” said Dodd. “If we shut all those down today, it would only be $80,273 savings, so we have another $60,000 somewhere to shut down.”Dodd went on to say the remainder of the losses could be recouped if half of the Fairmount Police Department was cut.
If services are not cut, Dodd says more than 26 percent of Fairmount citizens will not be able to afford the increase in property taxes.
In a meeting last week between all qualified municipalities eligible to receive LOST monies at the conclusion of a regularly scheduled Gordon County Board of Commissioners meeting, no agreement was reached.
Members of the Calhoun City Council, Resaca Town Council, Fairmount City Council and Gordon County Commissioners must reach an agreement on the distribution of the funds, according to state law, which dictates that if an agreement cannot be reached, all parties must enter arbitration proceedings.
According to state law, the renegotiation is required at the end of every census to determine how to best distribute the monies. Oakman, Ranger and Plainville are not considered in LOST revenue sharing due to a lack of public services required to receive a dividend.
Additionally, a renegotiation must be signed by Aug. 26, but does not require the signatures of all cities. If the county and the city of Calhoun, which combined represent more than 50 percent of the total county population, the agreement can proceed.
Both Calhoun and Gordon County have signed the agreement already, possibly allowing the distribution based on population to proceed without Fairmount and Resaca’s signature.
Though smaller cities do not have to sign the negotiation to make it binding, larger municipalities must distribute a per capita share of all the proceeds designated to all qualified municipalities, according to the Association County Commissioners of Georgia’s handbook explaining the LOST negotiations.
“This prevents small municipalities from coercing the county by refusing to sign a distribution certificate in order to get more than their fair share. It also protects the smaller cities from the larger governments by guaranteeing a minimum share for the smaller cities,” according to the handbook.
The Fairmount council members and county commissioners have all agreed to reconvene on the subject matter Tuesday, July 24, at 10 a.m. at the Gordon County Administrative Building in the Conference Room.