What is a Local Option Sales Tax and why does it take so many elected officials to discuss?

Published 3:03 pm Wednesday, May 18, 2022

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You might have seen or heard that elected officials representing Sumter County and all the municipalities are going to be gathering over the next months to make some determinations about something referred to as “LOST.” LOST means Local Option Sales Tax and it comes with a rich history. LOST was created as a way for counties and municipalities to collect taxes to pay for citizen services. In an effort to not put the costs of the services directly upon property owners, LOST was created. LOST, as the name suggests is a sales tax. It applies to anyone who makes a purchase within Sumter County. In this way it is a fair tax as anyone, despite their income, residency or property ownership status, pays the same penny on every dollar spent for goods. Every person who buys a product in Sumter County pays into this funding. Sales taxes allow visitors to pay into the funding for our vital services. Collected one penny at a time, these funds offer a significant impact in paying for services we enjoy as citizens. These funds help to keep the entire tax burden off of property owners. With visitors paying into the fund, it also keeps the entire burden off of Sumter County residents.

LOST however, demands the commissioners and city councils from all over Sumter County come to an agreement on how the pot of LOST funds are split. If these governing bodies do not come to an agreement on how to assign the funds, the county and the cities risk losing the monies all together. There are many contributing attributes the entities may take into consideration when deciding what part of the pot they will receive. Some common subjects to gather data are exactly where those pennies are coming from. Where are the majority of the sales take place? Another consideration is where are most of the services being utilized? Who is filling our landfills? These are only two of the questions which the bodies might take up. Once all of the bodies come to an agreement on the disbursement, the funds are released. There is a time limit on this process. Meeting one addressing LOST funds was held Monday, 5.16.22. Mark Waddell presented the process and took a quick poll on what the municipalities wished. Americus would not commit, however they expressed wanting to be fair and maintain at least what they have been receiving. Andersonville voiced no desire to change their allotted portion. Leslie and Plains also wished to stay at their current level. Desoto expressed wanting to see their portion increase. Sumter County stated they are also prepared to remain at the same rate. In 2013, the last agreement was reached. The rates agreed to, in round numbers, were as follows, Americus 44%, Andersonville .85%, Leslie 1.4%, Plains 1.8%, Desoto .6% and the County of Sumter, 51%. As is clear from these numbers, 95% of the funds go to Americus and Sumter County. With Americus not clearly committing to wanting to remain the same, and Desoto expressing want to see an increase, negotiations will need to take place. Next month’s meeting will begin the negotiation process. In the meanwhile, all municipalities are to send their wishes in writing to the County Administrator, Rayetta Volley.

The LOST meeting is open to the public and the next meeting’s date, time and location will be posted in the community calendar of the Americus Times-Recorder.