Mayors take disagreement over sales tax revenue to South Fulton residents

Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul, right, joined other College Park mayors Sept. 28 to discuss sales tax revenue negotiations with Fulton County. (City of College Park/Facebook)

Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul was among city leaders who participated in a town hall meeting on the distribution of more than $3 billion in Local Options Sales Tax (LOST) revenue in College Park Wednesday evening.

The meeting came a week after a similar event took place in Roswell with a few mayors from the southern part of Fulton County joining the mayors of North Fulton.

The mayors shared their perspective on Fulton County’s demand for a significantly larger share of LOST revenue than it has received in the past 10 years. The county received 4.98% of sales tax revenue. After dropping its initial demand for 35% of what is collected, the county reduced it to a starting share of 7-9%, rising to 19-20% by the seventh year of the agreement.

Cities want residents to contact their county commissioners to ask them to reconsider their LOST proposal.

“If you agree with Fulton County on this, let us know. We’ll admit if we’re wrong,” Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul said. agreement with Fulton County, let them know.”

Cities and county are required by law to renegotiate the LOST distribution every 10 years.

LOST revenues represent 25-40% of the budgets of the 15 cities, according to a press release. Its loss would necessitate severe budget cuts if mileage rate increases were not made.

In Sandy Springs, LOST represents 27% of the city budget, Paul said. If LOST ends because no deal is reached, Sandy Springs will have to lay off police and firefighters, he said. It would also force the city to eliminate the subsidy it pays for faster ambulance response times.

The mayors told local residents that no deal could be reached by the 15 towns and the county, they would have to raise mileage rates – and therefore property taxes – up to 7 mills. Sandy Springs is one of four cities with a cap on its mileage rate. Only voters can approve a tax increase in Sandy Springs under its charter. Other cities may need legislative action to amend their municipal charters to allow for mileage rate increases, the statement said.

The cities offered an increase to the county’s current share that would provide it with an additional $51 million for additional health services. The county wants a $380 million increase, and the cities say no details on how the money would be spent were offered.

A fact sheet released by Fulton County said its LOST revenue supports services such as libraries, public health and courts that are provided throughout the county. Fulton faces an additional burden with Grady Memorial Hospital after a hospital in East Point closed and the Atlanta Medical Center closed Nov. 1. The county’s prison population continues to grow, increasing the need for more deputies and a new jail. Justice services represent 38% of the departmental budget.

When Fulton County received funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, nothing went to the cities, Paul said. The county used $70 million in ARPA funds for the court system and now they’re asking for more money.

Paul said Gov. Brian Kemp also released a $130 million package for Grady Health System, addressing another revenue need the county has said is needed.

The first mediation session between the cities and county negotiating teams on September 23 did not result in an agreement. The next mediation session is scheduled for October 7.

If an agreement is not reached before December 30, LOST will automatically end.

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