Americus agrees to remain at current rate for LOST collection

Published 10:45 am Wednesday, July 13, 2022

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Sumter County and its municipalities met on July 11, 2022, to further negotiate the amount of Local Options Sales Tax (LOST) each entity would receive for the next ten years. LOST funds are a “penny tax” which are collected throughout Sumter County and every ten years all the municipalities and the county decide how those monies should be split. There are nine criteria which help guide the separate entities to determine if their “part of the pie” should be adjusted. Among some of the considerations are where the tax is being generated, what services the entities are responsible for, and the populations of the entities. Between Sumter County and Americus, about 95% of the funds are accounted for, with Americus receiving about 44% of those funds.

If any of the municipalities or the county wished to change the amount they received, a negotiation would take place. At the initial meeting, Desoto requested their amount be increased, the county and all other municipalities, with the exception of Americus voiced wishing to remain the same on their portion of the revenue. Americus would not voice their intentions to commit to the current rate and indicated they wanted a fair split between all concerned. Later at the June Americus City Council meeting, there was talk about the city hoping to increase their rate by a few percentage points, which would mean the other municipalities, and/or the county would decrease the amounts they received. Being Sumter County receives over 50% of the funds, while the other municipalities split about 5% of the funds between them, it is likely the county would have to accommodate the increase in the most significant manner. During the June meeting, the council reviewed their options, including arbitration to increase the rate the city currently received. One of the arguments presented for consideration is more than 90% of the tax generated was done so within the city limits of Americus.

However, at the LOST negotiation meeting, Mayor Lee Kinnamon requested the amount the City of Americus receives remain the same at a little over 44%. Kinnamon reports “the unanimous decision of our council was not to accept a decrease in our amount.” Kinnamon reports the only reason the City of Americus would seek arbitration is “if the county commission reduced our current allocation. That would force us into arbitration.” Sumter County Commissioner Mark Waddell indicated the commission would discuss the City of Desoto’s request to increase their portion at their meeting on Tuesday, July 12, 2022. Commissioner Clay Jones confirmed with Kinnamon that Americus wished to stay “where you’re at.” Kinnamon confirmed his wishes not to enter into an arbitration, which could lead to a “questionable outcome.” Kinnamon reports the council’s position is “we do believe we are entitled to and deserve, based upon the eight (of the nine) criteria, an increase.” Kinnamon went on to state his understanding the commissioners had decided not to accept any decreases, “so it seems the proceedings were moot at that point.” Kinnamon further opined, “Do I think it is fair and correct? I do not. But I am not going to make that case this evening because the minds have been made up. You’ve (Sumter County Board of Commissioners) already decided in your retreat that you would not allow for a decrease on part of the county.” Kinnamon closed by expressing the council would like to know if the city is looking at a decrease so they could have ample to time to make a decision as to Americus’ next steps. Waddell assured Kinnamon communication would be efficient.

LOST funding goes towards making the cities and county governments run. With Plains, Andersonville, Leslie and Sumter County indicating they are pleased with their current rate the impact to the citizen has been considered and appropriate considerations made as to ensuring ongoing of effective funding. Should Desoto not receive the increase they wish and Americus initially wanting an increase, the councils will have to make appropriate budget reflections which could include collecting additional funds from tax payors or decreasing/foregoing services which the city hoped to provide.

LOST funding offers a significant impact to needs identified by municipalities and county governments. As the name suggest, LOST is a sales tax, which means it is charged against goods bought within Sumter County. Sales taxes help alleviate the property owner’s burden, as one of the options to cover governmental expenses is to raise property taxes. A sales tax affects anyone making purchases within the county and the burden is split equally between property owners and those who do not property taxes within the county. Penny taxes, or sales taxes also are provided by persons who may not live in Sumter County. As an example, Walmart collects a significant amount of penny taxes, and their customers are not limited to Sumter County residents. Penny taxes are typically decided at the ballot box. In recent years a TSPLOST vote, which funds transportation infrastructure items, as well as an ESPLOST, which funds educational needs, have passed in Sumter County.  Both of these penny taxes provide significant dollars which potentially alleviate a burden a property owner must carry.

The Sumter County Board of Commissioners will meet on Tuesday, July 12, 2022, at the courthouse and the Mayor and City Council of Americus will meet at the public safety building on Thursday, July 14, 2022. Both of these meetings are open to the public. Should a resident wish to speak at the meeting there are protocols in place for such an allowance. Residents are also encouraged to speak with their elected officials or the county administrator and/or city manager on any topic related to city or council business.