“I had hoped to be further along than this but other considerations have slowed me up,” Chappell said at Thursday’s meeting, the second LOST meeting held. “I will have a proposal for you when we meet again in two weeks. We have until the end of August to wrap this up.”
The 1-cent LOST was approved by Carroll County voters in 1977 as a means to roll back property taxes. Every 10 years, the county and cities must meet to decide how the money will be split up among them, using new census data.
One proposal Chappell will be considering was offered Thursday by Bremen City Attorney Sam Price. Price called his plan “a radical idea,” but said it would let Carroll County have all the LOST revenue and then roll back the property taxes by that amount for all county taxpayers. According to Price’s estimation, it would eliminate most of the property tax.
“Based on a $49,147,835 county budget, with a percentage of 40 percent ($20 million) provided through real estate property taxes, this would result in a Carroll County property tax of 0 to 2 mills, which would be a reduction of approximately 6.5 mills to all property taxpayers in the county,” Price said.
Bremen is involved in the discussions because a part of that city is in Carroll County.
Price said cities would have to increase their property taxes by 1 or 2 mills to make up the lost revenue. However, he said the county would enter into service delivery agreements with each city to prevent the cities from being taxed for county services they don’t use. These would include such things as sheriff’s patrol, fire department, codes enforcement, planning and zoning and recreation.
“It’s an interesting concept,” Chappell said. “I’m going to take a look at it. I want all of you (cities) to look at if all your LOST revenue goes away, how much are you going to have to raise city taxes?
John Price, Roopville mayor pro tem, said such a system wouldn’t work with his city.
“We don’t tax our citizens,” Price said. “We take all our LOST revenue and invest it in the community. We would have to increase rates (for city services) to keep going.”
Roopville had a 2010 population of 218, up from 177 in 2000. Its share of the $15.2 million 2010 LOST revenues was $18,209.91.
Before the discussion started at Thursday’s meeting, Chappell noted that some cities had already submitted their suggestions by letter.
Bowdon Mayor Keith Crawford, in a letter dated July 26, asked that the rate paid to Bowdon remain at 3.2 percent, the same as in the past.
Mt. Zion Mayor Randy Sims, in a July 18 letter, suggested basing the rate on each municipality’s percentage of the total population of the municipalities in the county, rather than on the total county population.
Villa Rica Mayor J. Collins said his city would like to get a larger percentage.
“We’ve had some preliminary discussions with our council,” Collins said. “We want to approach this and be opened minded. Understand, we want to get a larger percentage than we’re getting now, but we don’t want to rock the boat too much. We do feel like we’re a large contributor to the economic success of the county and we’d like to be rewarded accordingly.”
Under a clause known as the “Absent Municipality Provision,” only Carroll County and the city of Carrollton would be required to sign the LOST agreement. The provision defines “absent municipalities” as “those having a combined total population less than one-half of the aggregate population of all qualified municipalities in the county.”
But the law does require that the absent municipalities receive a per capita share of the proceeds that are designated for distribution to qualified municipalities.
The total municipality population in Carroll County is 41,570. Carrollton has 24,388, or 58.7 percent of it. The next highest population is Villa Rica, with 8,367, which is only 20.1 percent of the municipality population, making it one of the absent municipalities.
Representatives from Carroll County, Bowdon, Bremen, Carrollton, Mt. Zion, Roopville, Temple, Villa Rica and Whitesburg attended the Thursday meeting.
LOST differs from SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) which is a penny sales tax that funds specific projects and is approved by voters in a countywide referendum.
Carroll County residents now pay 7 cents sales tax per dollar. Four cents goes to the state, with 1-cent each to the SPLOST, the education E-SPLOST and LOST. If the 1-cent transportation (T-SPLOST) is approved by the Three Rivers region voters on July 31, Carroll County residents will pay an 8-cent sales tax. The Three Rivers region includes the counties of Carroll, Butts, Coweta, Heard, Lamar, Meriwether, Pike, Spalding, Troup and Upson.