Sep. 7—VALDOSTA — The City of Valdosta approved the certificate of distribution with Lowndes County for the new allocation of the local option sales tax for the next 10 years.
Mark Barber, city manager, told Valdosta City Council that Georgia law requires the distribution of LOST funds between the county and the municipalities be renegotiated every 10 years. The last negotiation in Lowndes County occurred in August 2012.
Barber said in order to continue the LOST in Lowndes County, county and municipalities representing greater than 50% of the county's incorporated population must agree to a new distribution.
Georgia code O.C.G.A. 48-8-89 provides that smaller municipalities may be absent from the negotiation provided they receive a pro rata share of the total percentage of LOST allocated to the municipalities based on total incorporated population.
Valdosta represents approximately 89% of the incorporated population, allowing it to negotiate with the county subject to the noted requirements. Lowndes County has proposed maintaining the same county allocation (58%) agreed to in 2012 which is acceptable to the City of Valdosta.
The remaining cities in Lowndes County are electing to be absent from the negotiation as provided in O.C.G.A. 48-8-89, meaning they're "not coming to the table for negotiation, all (they) want is our percent of allocation that represents our percent of the municipal population."
According to the Census Bureau, population growth in Lowndes County during the last 10 years has resulted in Valdosta's share of the total county population decreasing from 49.91% to 46.59% and its share of the incorporated population decreasing from 90.83% to 89.17%.
This is the result of significant growth in all of the smaller cities except Dasher as well as growth in the incorporated areas of the county.
This means that Valdosta would receive 89.17% (Valdosta's share of the incorporated population) of 42% (the total municipal allocation of LOST) or 37.45% of the total LOST. This represents a reduction of 1.18% from the current share of 38.63%. The complete allocation is:
Lake Park 0.65%
Lowndes County 58%
City Council member Tim Carroll inquired whether the calculations will take approximately $300,000 per year or $3 million during the 10-year life.
Barber said that there is 'a lot of concern' but he said he feels the first two or three years will be fine and the city will be able to manage.
"However, past that, with the economy the way it is we may see a change and that is when we will see the first hit for us as far as our distribution going down 1.18%," he said.
Carroll asked if this was money that goes directly into the general fund and Barber stated that is correct.
Council member Sandra Tooley asked Barber about the decrease in the percentage and whether the city would have to go up on the sales tax if it wanted to do some special projects. Barber said no and the city is locked into this for 10 years.
"There are special cases. Let's say, number one, we don't agree with the results of the census, and we go through that process of protesting all that, and we found out there's a 8,000 population mistake. That would warrant maybe coming back and trying to address the situation," he said.
Tooley inquired as to whether there was a particular percentage rate where the city could have not dropped more than 2% or 3%. Barber said it was just the pure calculation of how the population shifted. He ran a report from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs just to see what others are doing, and the city was pretty much in line with what others around the state are doing.
After all inquiry, a motion was made by Carroll to approve the LOST certificate of distribution as presented. The motion was adopted 5-1 with only Tooley voting in opposition.