Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local News

November 26, 2012

LOST negotiations move to court arbitration phase

AMERICUS — The Sumter County government and the City of Americus,  along with the county’s other municipalities will enter into the court arbitration phase in their negotiation of LOST (local option sales tax) revenues. Since an agreement was not reached by all of the parties by last Wednesday, the City attorney, Jimmy Skipper filed a lawsuit asking the court for binding arbitration.

County administrator, Bill Twomey told the Times-Recorder that under the new law, the negotiations had to move to court arbitration. Twomey said the Sumter County Board of Commissioners (BOC) met in a called meeting last Wednesday to see if it’s position had change regarding the negotiation. The BOC’s position had not changed and with the mediation term expiring, the next step is arbitration.

Skipper said Monday, the suit or petition, was filed jointly by the County and all of the cities and is simply a formal way of requesting that the decision be reached before the court. He said the parties involved will submit their “best and final offer” and a superior court judge from outside the circuit will be appointed to hear the case. Skipper added that the desired result of court arbitration will be to have the matter settled by the end of the year when the current tax arrangement expires.

Twomey said although the parties moved closer to a scenario that everyone liked, they didn’t get close enough to sign off on an agreement. “We just didn’t make it in time,” he said.

Twomey added that in the original negotiations, there wasn’t a lot accomplished. He said “no one in the room had been part of LOST negotiations before.”

Following the initial negotiation phase, the County and the cities  moved into mediation with assistance from the Karl Vinson Institute. Twomey said all parties involved gave a great effort in the negotiations. “Time just ran out on us” he said. In the current arrangement, the split had been 51 percent for Sumter County and 49 percent to the cities. Now the County wants 57 percent.  If there is no agreement reached by Dec. 31, the LOST goes away, and with it the revenue.

 

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