Friday afternoon marked the beginning of the end for LOST negotiations.
Yes, LOST. Yet another one percent Local Options Sales Tax incurred on the citizens of Chatham County, and yet another point of contention between city and county officials.
With LOST accounting for roughly 16 percent of the municipal general fund statewide, it’s understood that municipalities will have their fair share of discussion over the tax revenue. But Chatham County is home to a very particular set of circumstances.
Per capita, the city of Savannah receives the second largest amount of LOST revenue in the state — right behind Atlanta. And with roughly $600 million proposed for distribution over the next 10 years between municipalities and unincorporated Chatham, the entities are finding that coming to an agreement is proving difficult.
So negotiation has escalated to mediation.
“We have received a list of mediators from the county,” announced Mayor Edna Jackson at Friday’s meeting. “What we tried to do is see if we could come to a consensus before we have to enter mediation.
Mediation would prove to be a costly measure for both the city and the county, but after a number of requests from the county went unanswered and unfulfilled, members of the Chatham County Council felt they had no choice.
“We came to you with a formula,” said county commissioner Pat Farrell. “It gives every tax payer an equal opportunity to benefit from the LOST revenue.”
In order for the county to compile data from the proposed formula, commissioners asked representatives from each of the municipalities to send property tax information.
Only three responded.
Though the requested information is readily available through public record on the internet, it is clear that the lack of response from the cities provides insight into future mediation regarding the LOST tax.
And with less than 45 days left for talk, the city and county alike need to take action.