ROSWELL, Ga. — Fulton County and its 15 cities are in a fight over how to split up the local option sales tax, also known as LOST.
The LOST revenue of more than $300 million a year is negotiated every 10 years and needs to be finalized before Dec. 30.
The decision could impact every taxpayer in Fulton County and raise property taxes for homeowners.
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Mayors across the county are coming together to host town halls for the public to learn about the LOST process and have their questions answered.
The first town hall will be held Wednesday, Sept. 21, at 7 p.m. inside Roswell City Hall in north Fulton County.
The Fulton County Board of Commissioners will also hear an update on the negotiations at their meeting Wednesday morning.
The county’s first proposal was a massive increase in the current share of just under 5% up to 35%, totaling around an extra $90 million per year. The county says the increase is needed to pay for countywide services including public health and safety, courts, and renovating or building a new jail.
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“Ultimately, it’s going to be the cities or the actual taxpayers themselves that wind up footing the bill,” according to Johns Creek Mayor John Bradberry. The cities’ initial proposal was to cut Fulton County’s percentage even further to less than 5% of the LOST revenue.
Bradberry says to make up almost $8 million dollars in lost tax revenue under the county’s proposal, Johns Creek would have to raise property taxes on each homeowner by over a third. “The cities are going to look like the bad guy because we’re the ones that will have to cut services or raise taxes, but really it’s the county that’s putting us in this very difficult position,” said Bradberry.
To keep the same funding and services, the millage rate in Johns Creek would also have to climb above what’s legally allowed in the city’s own charter, a problem with three other cities, including East Point.
Deana Holiday Ingraham, mayor of East Point, said that the change in the millage rate would have an “impact on our budgets, impact on (our) ability to provide services, impact on public safety, and services we provide to our residents.”
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Fulton County says they have come down from their initial 35% proposal. In a newly released fact sheet, they said the following: “Fulton County has three offers on the table, all of which allow the cities to maintain their current funding, but allows the county share of LOST to grow over time.”
According to the mayors on the negotiating team, those offers would start at the current 5% of revenue but increase for the county over 10 years up to 25% or more, while the cities’ current offer is in the 5% to 15% range.
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