Valdosta Daily Times

October 16, 2013

LOST deadline looming

Lowndes, cities have until Thursday to agree

Kay Harris
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Lowndes County and the five municipalities have one last chance to agree on the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) or the tax will end.

Following a Supreme Court decision overturning judicial review as an option, the cities' lawsuit against the county became a moot issue. Based on a recommendation from the state Attorney General’s office, the Department of Revenue has given the approximately 21 counties affected a deadline of 4:30 p.m. Thursday.

The Lowndes County Commission met in a called meeting Tuesday and voted to approve continuing the tax at the current allocations, 58 percent for the county and 42 percent for the five cities. A letter from County Commission Chairman Bill Slaughter and a copy of the official certificate to be filed was hand delivered to the City of Valdosta after the meeting.

“It’s up to Valdosta and the cities to decide how to divide the 42 percent. They can keep it the same as it is now, or they can change it, but the county’s portion is set at 58 percent,” said County Manager Joe Pritchard.

With so little time to reach a decision, Slaughter said there is no time to negotiate over the division of the 1

percent sales tax.

The letter states, “This is the Board of Commissioners’ last and best offer. The Board of Commissioners will not meet again on the matter.”

All five cities — Valdosta, Remerton, Lake Park, Dasher and Hahira — will have to hold called meetings to vote on the issue and each mayor must sign the certificate before submitting it to the state.

If the cities don’t meet the Thursday deadline, the Department of Revenue will stop collecting the tax and collections will end. There is a possibility that it could be revived in a referendum at a future date, and the General Assembly may make changes to the LOST Act in the next session, but the Thursday deadline is not negotiable.

Pritchard said, “We understand that Dougherty, Tift, Ware, Berrien and Turner counties have already reached an agreement and submitted it to the state. We are optimistic that Lowndes will join them.”

The 10-year LOST tax was set to expire on Dec. 30, 2012, but was allowed to continue being collected by the Department of Revenue while the lawsuit was in the court system. The Supreme Court decision ended the lawsuit option, the state has already collected almost 10 months of the tax this year, and Slaughter said it’s “in everyone’s best interest to agree so the tax collections continue and we can move past this issue.”

The money collected from LOST is actually a rollback tax and not an additional tax. Property taxes are rolled back each year based on prior year collections of the tax.