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December 22, 2013

Commissioners host local delegation

VALDOSTA — The Lowndes County Commission hosted Sen. Tim Golden and House Representatives Amy Carter, Ellis Black, and Jason Shaw to discuss the needs of the county in preparation for the next Georgia Legislative session.

The Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) and the earlier qualifying and primary dates for Georgia representatives were among the items discussed.

 Commissioners requested that the representatives help to re-enact the original LOST referendum where the revenues would be based upon population and to show the reduction of property taxes on the bill as a credit against the amount of property taxes owed.

“It’s a struggle between the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) and the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA),” Ellis Black said. “It should be based on the value of the property, not the population.”

This legislative session may end a little earlier next year because of elections. County Manager Joe Pritchard asked if the earlier primary and qualifying dates might affect how long the General Assembly will meet, Golden said even though many legislators are anxious to start running their campaigns, he doubts the session will end early.

Other items the Lowndes County Commission wants the representatives to look at included:

• The Motor Fuel Excise Tax Exemption:

The ACCG wants the General Assembly to provide a tax exemption similar to the exemptions provided to public schools, local governments, and public transit systems. The county pays $94,000 per year.

• Bridges and Off-system Bridges

Chairman Bill Slaughter said that Lowndes County has 103 bridges, which are currently at the maximum allowable weight limits. Seven of the bridges are in need of replacing, to which some of the SPLOST VII revenues were designated to replace.

• Libraries

Lowndes County currently pays one million in operating funds and approximately $40,000 in legal fee funding, and they are requesting help from the state level due to the cuts made in recent years.  

• Annexation/De-annexation

The county is requesting that the legislature consider making the rules for annexation and de-annexation fairer for all involved.

• Inmate Heath Care

The ACCG requested assistance to maximize the Medicaid dollars for inmates who are eligible because of the increasing cost of inmate medical needs. Lowndes County pays $1.2 million for inmate medical costs annually.

• Juvenile Justice Reform

Lowndes County received a $200,000 grant for juvenile rehabilitation. “Juvenile offenders need special

attention and need to be handled differently,” Slaughter said. ACCG is requesting more state funding to increase the public defenders and prosecutors.

• Magistrate Court Fees

In 1983 the magistrate court fee increased from $20 to $54, and that was the most recent increase; the ACCG is requesting to increase the fee paralleling the inflation rate.

• Assume Full Financial Responsibility for State Prisoners

Requesting to take the necessary steps to eliminate the local tax burden for housing state prisoners, the ACCG hopes to keep the correction facilities open, reduce overcrowding, and build new facilities.

• Alcohol Beverage Tax

This tax has not been adjusted since the 1980’s and the ACCG asked the representatives to adjust these to fit the inflation rate using the Consumer Price Index.

Other final items discussed were:

Taxing online purchases at a state level because the state and local municipalities lose tax revenue due to online purchases.

Commissioner Demarcus Marshall asked the state legislators about Georgia’s new Common Core Curriculum. Rep. Amy Carter said she was disappointed by all of the rumors surrounding the new curriculum, and she explained how this is the best system because a student’s progress is assessed annually on their levels of comprehension.

“This curriculum forces students to think more critically about subjects,” Carter said.

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