They have until Aug. 26, the day the new contract must be turned in to the state, to determine if they will fight for what they consider an equitable share or accept the terms.
Under the previous agreement, Resaca received 1.75 percent of the $8.4 million collected in total LOST revenue. The amount would decease due to population loss.
“We would hate to lose what we’ve got,” Resaca mayor Samuel Allen said.
The law stipulates that if all municipalities fail to reach a unanimous agreement then the two that comprise more than 50 percent of the population can sign the contract and it can proceed.
Leaders from Calhoun and Gordon County, the two largest municipalities, agreed on the contract Tuesday.
The law does protect smaller municipalities like Resaca by allowing leaders to enter into arbitration where a circuit judge decides what share of the funds they receive.
Fairmount leaders have already indicated they would enter arbitration, but Resaca council members have been hesitant to follow suit due to concerns over cost and the likelihood that a judge would rule in their favor.
During their monthly meeting Tuesday, Resaca town council members remained at a standstill on whether or not to pursue arbitration, with some calling the fight “a losing battle.”
“We don’t want to lay down, but we don’t want to bankrupt the town with attorney’s fees, either,” councilman Mitch Reed told fellow members.
Reed said that Fairmount council members asked Resaca leaders to split legal costs in order to pursue arbitration jointly.
Reed didn’t know how much the arbitration effort would cost taxpayers.
Reed also expressed concern that the LOST shortfall could potentially jeopardize funding for the second phase of the town’s sewerage project.
“When we submitted our application it was based on what we were already getting,” he said. “I don’t know if it will come back on us or not. This is just my concern and no one has told me it would.”
The town requested $2.5 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the second phase of the sewer, Reed said. Funding for the first phase has been received already.
“The project would have to be put on hold if we were turned down,” Reed said.
Allen and councilman Brant Talley stood by earlier statements that they valued intergovernmental cooperation with Calhoun and Gordon County and felt arbitration might endanger the “good will” between them.
Councilwoman Jean Makonis asked fellow members, “What about the good will of the people of Resaca?”
Members resolved not to take any action until the town attorney could do further research on the arbitration cost, time involved, etc.
Members remained committed to looking for ways to offset the anticipated LOST shortfall, which could total more than $50,000.
Talley has spearheaded an effort to introduce business licenses in the town in hopes of offsetting some of the LOST revenue.
He suggested the council adopt Calhoun’s plan, which applies fees on an incremental basis according to the number of employees.
For example, a business with one employee pays $75, those with two employees pay $148 and so on. Other business types, specially listed on Calhoun’s business license application, pay additional fees.
“This business tax is important,” Reed told council members. “We’ve got to get moving on it.”
Council members also discussed adopting an administrative fee of $25 that would be added to traffic citations. Members agreed to research the matter and address it at their next meeting.
Council members have said property taxes could be increased as a last resort.
Resaca’s population fell by roughly 200 people from 2000-2010, which limited the amount of LOST revenue the city could receive, based on the parameters of the contract. State law requires that all municipalities receive at least one percent of LOST revenue.
Included in Resaca’s most recent budget, approved last month, was $18,000 in abandoned money that had been tied up in the courts, which members said would help offset the LOST funds.
The budget called for $391,580 in total revenue, equal to the total amount of expenditures. It does not take into consideration the LOST shortfall.