Drew Hays of Thomaston wants the county and city governments to use the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) the way it was meant to be used – as a rollback of property tax – rather than as an extra source of income for governments. Hays, who has attended all of the LOST negotiation meetings, made his presentation to the Upson County Board of Commissioners two weeks ago, and again on Sept. 18 at the Thomaston City Council meeting.
Hays told the council members that the Official Code of Georgia (OCGA)makes it clear that LOST revenues are to be used as an offset revenue source to reduce property tax levies. He stated he believes the current use of LOST as an additional revenue source is “a manipulation of the taxation process which is not in the best interests of the citizen taxpayer,” and he encouraged the governing bodies to both follow the OCGA as it was intended, and to make the correction prior to any further discussion of LOST distribution percentages.
Mayor Hays Arnold and other members of city government responded favorably to Hays’ presentation, as Upson County Commission Chairman Maurice Raines did two weeks ago. Mayor Arnold said hays presented some valid points.
“He has some very solid points that he brings forth. These are things that government would need to take a look at,” said Arnold. “I would encourage all of you to do as recommended here and take a look at the code section, and make yourself knowledgeable.”
Mayor Arnold added that the head of the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA), Norm Morton, will be visiting Thomaston next week to meet with State Representative-elect Johnnie Caldwell, and that they will bring the issue up with him as well.
City Attorney Joel stated that Hays is correct, that the LOST is intended to be a property tax rollback.
“Unfortunately,” Bentley added, “the issue that we face with the county is the disagreement with the division of the LOST proceeds as they are generated within the county. “
City Manager Patrick Comiskey agreed with Bentley, stating that after the county withdrew its original offer, the new offer would hurt city taxpayers.
“The proposal is that the county wants an increase in their allocation of that sales tax,” said Comiskey. “What in effect that means is, what the chairman is proposing is reducing the amount available for a tax rollback to city property owners, which, in effect, means a property tax increase. That is one of the things that we’re against.”
Bentley ended the comments by stating he is still hopeful the LOST negotiations can be worked out to everyone’s satisfaction.
“Mr. Hays, I would love for this community to work together so that the LOST proceeds that the city and county receives exceeds the millage rate for both the city and the county, and we do not have to levy any property taxes,” said Bentley. “I know that you run a business, and every business that we could have in this community and everything we can do to promote Upson County and Thomaston only helps to achieve that goal.”