QUITMAN -- The City of Quitman Tuesday night voted to reject Brooks County's Local Option Sales Tax offer of 19.48 for the next 10 years. Instead, they responded with a repeat counter-offer: 19.48 percent of LOST funds for 2003, then receive an annual increase of .1966.

The ball is now back in the county commission's court. The commissioners might discuss their response during their monthly meeting Thursday.

LOST is determined every ten years, after the census has been taken. Certificates of distribution must be submitted to the state by Dec. 30. If negotiations haven't been completed by the deadline, the LOST money will leave Brooks County.

The money can be used for tax rollbacks.

Negotiations have been ongoing at least since July. At the beginning of the negotiations, the city asked for 28.19 percent. The county was offering 18.24 percent.

The halfway negotiating point occurred in late October. The two entities had agreed that if they hadn't reached a decision by then, they would consider a non-binding arbitrator, instead of the mediator used until that point. However, both governments have decided not to use an arbitrator, preferring instead to sit down as friends and neighbors to discuss things, Quitman City Administrator J.D. Herring said.

Herring also said the city was basing its assessment on what's transpiring elsewhere throughout the state.

"At least there's movement going on now," Herring said, adding that earlier during the negotiations neither side wanted to budge.

To contact reporter Marie Arrington, please call 244-3400, ext. 254.

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