The agreement must be returned to the state by Aug. 26, either signed by all qualified municipalities receiving LOST funds, or by the municipalities that compose more than 50 percent of the county’s population that are receiving funds.
To date, Fairmount has refused to sign completely, and Resaca has still not moved for or against the proposal.
According to the proposal, Fairmount will possibly see a 172 percent increase in taxes due to a popluation decrease of 3.3 percent according to the recent 2010 Census statistics.
Gordon County Commissioner Chair Judy Bailey says the proposal by the county to distribute the LOST funds based on population is the fairest way to divide the money. Additionally, this method of distribution comes as a recommendation of the Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG), and the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA).
According to Fairmount Mayor Harry Pierce, Fairmount is prepared to enter into arbitration.
“If something doesn’t happen there (arbitration), then we ask a Superior Judge in our district to make a decision,” said Pierce. “We would present our case, explaining to him this LOST tax is supposed to help reduce property taxes, and the position would make us raise our millage rate up to 13 mills from five. We would have to raise property taxes eight points to recoup this type of money.”
Additionally, Pierce believes alternative measures should be sought to provide a more reasonable outcome to dividing the dollars, and says Fairmount wants to enter into the same Service Delivery Strategy agreement between Calhoun City and Gordon County.
Currently, the Gordon County service delivery strategy, written in the 1990’s, pays the City of Calhoun $279,000 annually, with a three percent annual increase to pay for county use of Calhoun Parks and Recreation, according to Gordon County Administrator Randy Dowling.
“It made sense when we started it because we didn’t have our own parks and recreation department,” said Dowling. “We are still giving them (Calhoun City Parks and Recreation) the money, but we have our own parks and recreation facility now, Sonoraville Recreational Complex, and because we still give money to Calhoun, now Fairmount wants this same type of arrangement.”
Resaca city councilmember Mitch Reed says, on his own behalf, that he believes the Resaca council members will sign the proposal from Gordon County, but says the LOST negotiation was never truly a negotiation.
“It was, pretty in much my opinion, cut and dry, they already had their minds made up,” said Reed. “I do believe we will come around and sign because we have worked really hard the last year or two to start building a relationship with the city of Calhoun, and we have worked to build a relationship with the county.”
Additionally, to refrain from the high cost associated with arbitration, Resaca is making alternative plans to recoup the revenue loss with the LOST negotiations, while keeping a healthy, growing relationship with the city, which has agreed to maintain Resaca’s sewer mains.
The negotiations are determined every 10 years, and money has been distributed in the past in Gordon County based on population findings by the U.S. Census.
An agreement must be reached and reported to the state by August 26, and according to Bailey, no changes in the proposed distributions are expected.
The law will allow for Fairmount to enter into arbitration, but for the proposed distributions to move forward, only the signatures of approval from Gordon County and Calhoun City are necessary.
According to Georgia state law, this stipulation keeps small municipalities from potentially holding larger municipalities “hostage,” in negotiations to get a more than deserved portion of the funds.
As of press time, Fairmount had not officially entered into arbitration.