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December 1--  Cities and counties in Georgia will be negotiating next year on their share of local option sales taxes which will be collected over a ten-year period starting in 2013.

It's important for property owners because any government which gains share will have to reduce its property taxes by the same amount.  At the same time, if a city or county loses sales tax revenue, property owners in its boundaries could face a property tax increase.

Officials from various area counties attended a seminar on the upcoming sales tax negotiations Thursday at East Georgia College in Swainsboro.  Clint Mueller from the Association County Commissioners of Georgia helped conduct the class.

"Depending on how this money is split, it could favor taxpayers in one area of the county over taxpayers who live in another area of the county.  That's why these negotiations are very important because the outcome could impact how much property tax relief you get," Mueller says.

Based on negotiations which were conducted in 2002, Toombs County and Vidalia each receive 41.5% of local sales tax collections, Lyons gets 16% and Santa Claus is allocated one percent.

Mueller says if the parties' negotiations on a new split break down next year, a judge will decide the outcome.

"Either side who feels they're not getting a fair shake out of this has the ability to argue their side before a neutral third party and that's a visiting judge from the outside.  If they are able to convince that judge that they're acting in good faith in how to split this, then they're going to win.  That judge has to pick one of the proposals that presented and decide which is the fairest way to split it," according to Mueller. 

Both Toombs County and Vidalia have already hired consultants to help them prepare for the upcoming negotiations.  One official says the possibilty is good that it will go to a judge for arbitration before it's decided.