LOST revenue debate exposes ‘rift’ between cities and Fulton County

Without resolution, officials warn of property tax increase
Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 12:04 AM EDT
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ROSWELL, Ga. (CBS46) -On Wednesday, mayors from eight Fulton County cities held a town hall in Roswell to explain the struggle in negotiating LOST (local option sales tax) revenue sharing with Fulton County.

“This is a huge threat to every resident in every city in Fulton County. Fulton County is asking for way too much money. They’re currently getting 5 percent. They’re less than 1 percent of the population. Summary of powers is executed by the 15 cities. This is a ridiculous thing,” said Kurt Wilson, Mayor of Roswell.

The 15 cities in Fulton County split the revenue from LOST with Fulton County.

In the last fiscal year, LOST revenue surpassed $300 million. The cities split roughly 95% of this. Fulton County received roughly 5%.

Every ten years, the two sides re-negotiate the sharing plan of LOST revenue based on the latest census data.

For cities, the LOST revenue accounts for, on average, roughly 30% of a city’s overall budget, according to County financial officials.

They use the funds to cover the costs of providing local police, fire, and ambulance service, along with park upkeep.

“Those pennies are the difference between being able to respond to emergencies and not,” said Bianca Motley-Broom, Mayor of College Park.

Motley-Broom said without the LOST revenue, College Park would have to consider a millage rate increase, leading to higher property taxes to continue to provide these charter-mandated services.

The two sides started negotiations in August. They have until Dec. 30 to come to an agreement, otherwise, the tax and tax revenue is lost altogether.

“This isn’t about one group winning versus the other,” said Bob Ellis, Fulton County Commissioner, during a Board meeting Wednesday. “It really shouldn’t be. It should be about coming up with an arrangement that’s beneficial for property taxpayers as a whole.”

On Wednesday, County officials said the increase in LOST revenue would help the County cover the costs of a new jail, added financial support to Grady Hospital, and mental health services.

“This is really a big deal that’s going to and citizens need to understand that,” said Fulton County Commissioner Lee Morris during a Board meeting Wednesday.

The County initially proposed increasing its share of LOST to 35%. That was rejected by the Cities.

According to County officials on Wednesday, the County’s latest offer was to increase their LOST share to roughly 15-20%.

City negotiators have sought the County’s share to not exceed roughly 6.5%.

The two sides will meet on Friday in mediation.

Mayors in south Fulton cities will hold a town hall to update the public on negotiations on September 28.