March 29-- An effort to mediate how Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) revenue will be divided in Toombs County failed Thursday at the county courthouse.
The county and the cities of Vidalia, Lyons and Santa Claus have been in discussions since the first of the year with no agreement. The cities want the formula to remain the same with Vidalia and Toombs County each getting 41.5%, Lyons 16% and Santa Claus 1%.
Vidalia city manager Bill Torrance says the towns' shares should really increase, but they are willing to settle for the status quo.
"We feel like we qualify for more funds than we are getting right now, but are willing to accept the present breakdown and have communicated that pretty consistently," Torrance says.
Commission Chairman Buddy West says the county will not accept the status quo. "Everyone is entitled to their opinion and based on the numbers and how you look at them, we feel comfortable with our position of not having the status quo. This is the first time this has been looked at by professionals and we are just going to go with that," West says.
County officials initially wanted to increase the county's share of the sales tax by almost 20% but made some counter-proposals Thursday through mediator Franklin Edenfield of Swainsboro.
Edenfield shuttled back and forth between two rooms in the courthouse with city officials in one and county officials in the other. The sessions started about nine and ended about 4:30 p.m. with no agreement.
Chairman West says county commissioners rejected a suggestion from the cities that another public meeting be held to try one more time to resolve the issue.
"You know we've had two of those at the Chamber of Commerce building. Nothing was settled there in a public forum and after talking to all the commissioners, they decided not to do that," he said.
West says county attorney Howard Kaufold has been instructed to work with city lawyers to take the case to court.
"He and the city attorneys will get together and file a petition and move forward with an impartial judge from outside the circuit here," West reports.
Whatever formula a judge comes up with will take effect in January and continue for ten years.