July 20-- A hearing to determine how local option sales tax (LOST) proceeds will be divided among governments in Toombs County is delayed. The hearing before Dublin Circuit Superior Court Judge H. Gibbs Flanders, Jr. had been scheduled to take place today in Toombs County Superior Court but had to be changed due to scheduling conflicts with attorneys.
The lawyers will hold a pre-hearing conference with Judge Flanders July 30th in Dublin and are expected to decide on a new hearing date at that time.
After hearing arguments from the Toombs County Commission and the cities of Vidalia, Lyons and Santa Claus, Judge Flanders will decide how the tax revenue will be shared for the next ten years starting in January.
Negotiation and mediation among the governments have failed to get an agreement.
Toombs County wants to increase it's share by nearly 20 percent while the cities want to keep their shares the same as now. The sales tax collects about $4.5 million a year and currently divided with Toombs County and Vidalia getting 42.17% each, Lyons 14.65% and Santa Claus one percent.
City officials claim an increase in the county's share will result in a net increase of property taxes to city residents.
Meanwhile, a recent opinion from the State Attorney General's office seems to give the county a leg-up in the upcoming argument before Judge Flanders.
Toombs County has based it's calculation of an increase on claims it serves all citizens of the county, not just those in unincorporated areas. The cities dispute this claim and argue their taxpayers are subsidizing various county services provided outside their city limits.
However, the Attorney General, in a recent letter to Lowndes County, says state and case law support the argument that a county's share should take the county's entire population into account. That is the reasoning Toombs County used when it attempted to increase its share to 61.4%.