The county Board of Commissioners has the LOST proposal on its 6 p.m. Tuesday agenda, while the Carrollton City Council will vote on it on Sept. 10. The Carrollton council usually meets on the first Monday of the month, but since this Monday is a holiday, the meeting was rescheduled for the following Monday.
Under state law, Carrollton is the only city required to approve the proposal for it to become official. Both commission Chairman Bill Chappell and Carrollton Mayor Wayne Garner said Friday they are in agreement with a LOST division formula presented by Chappell Aug. 23 at a meeting with city representatives.
“We’re running out of time on this and LOST is critical for Carroll County to survive without huge cuts,” Chappell said Friday.
Chappell said he’s asked all the city leaders to present the proposal to their councils, but many will not have a chance to vote before the county and Carrollton take action. He said he’d like to have 100 percent of the cities behind it, but he doubts that will happen.
Under a clause known as the Absent Municipality Provision, Carrollton is the only city whose approval is needed. The provision defines “absent municipalities” as “those having a combined total population less than one-half of the aggregate population of all qualified municipalities in the county.” These absent municipalities have no vote in the decision. That definition of “absent municipalities” excludes all the cities from the decision-making except Carrollton.
The total municipality population in Carroll County is 41,570 — Carrollton has 58.7 percent of it with 24,388 residents. The next highest population is Villa Rica, with 8,367 residents, which is only 20.1 percent of the municipality population, making it one of the absent municipalities.
However, the law does require that the absent municipalities receive a per capita share of the proceeds that are designated for distribution to qualified municipalities.
Chappell’s proposal calls for the county to get 59.83 percent of the LOST funds, with Carrollton getting 24.5 percent; Villa Rica, 7.5 percent; Temple, 3.5 percent; Bowdon, 2 percent; Mt. Zion, 1.15 percent; Whitesburg, 1 percent; Bremen, 0.32 percent; and Roopville, 0.2 percent.
The proposed division would be a slight reduction for the county, going from 62.42 percent in 2002 to 59.83 percent in 2012.
Cities losing percentages from the 2002 rates would include Carrollton and Roopville. Bremen would remain at the same rate it was in 2002 and the other cities would see small increases.
However, if the county chose to use population percentages as the basis for division, cities such as Villa Rica, Temple and Mt. Zion would get larger shares.
At the Aug. 23 meeting, Garner at first balked on signing the agreement, but later in the meeting said he would. He expressed concern about “anti-Carrollton” feelings on the Board of Commissioners.
“Carrollton is entitled to more than we’re receiving, but in order for us to do that, we’d have to knock other cities out of funds,” he said. “We want to be fair and not stubborn. As one mayor put it, some of the smaller cities depend on that money for their survival. We’re happy with the way it is and we’re willing to sign it.”
As for the anti-Carrollton remark, Garner said Friday that he was referring to past instances when the city of Carrollton had requested cooperation with the Board of Commissioners, and some commissioners had voted to refuse. He specifically cited a vote on the downtown West Georgia Technical College building.
“I don’t know if it (the anti-Carrollton sentiment) will continue, but I hope not,” he said.
Carrollton City Manager Casey Coleman agreed with Garner Friday that the LOST percentage is something the city can live with.
“In this economy, the chairman did all he could to make this work for everybody,” Coleman said. “Everybody’s going to have to make sacrifices. Initially, we weren’t going to agree to it because it is $135,000 lost to us.”
But Coleman said the city is willing to accept the figure if the mayor and council give their approval Sept. 10.
Bremen City Attorney Sam Price, at the Aug. 23 meeting, said he had proposed a 0.7 percent share, instead of the 0.32 offered, because he feels the small section of Bremen in Carroll County produces about 4 percent of the sales tax revenue and should be better compensated. He suggested trimming the difference from the county’s share.
Mt. Zion Mayor Randy Sims said he was disappointed and was hoping for a bigger share.
“In the past, we’ve took it on the chin,” Sims said. “But small towns are struggling. That extra half-cent is the difference whether our employees get raises or roads get paved. Let some of Carrollton’s pocket change go to us.”
Attorney David Mecklin, who represents four of the cities, said everybody has trusted Chappell in the past to make the best decision, but added “there’s now great uncertainty” since Chappell lost his re-election bid.
Temple Mayor Rick Ford said he would sign the agreement. Under the proposal, Temple’s share would go from 2.62 percent to 3.5 percent, although under a division strictly by population it would get 3.82 percent.
Villa Rica Councilman Rusty Dean said he’s “not particularly happy” with Villa Rica’s proposed 7.5 percent share, when it would get 7.57 percent under a strict population split.
Every 10 years, within two years of the census, county and city officials must renegotiate the formula for distributing LOST funds.
LOST differs from SPLOST, which is a penny sales tax that funds specific projects and is approved by voters in a countywide referendum.
Carroll County residents now pay 7 cents sales tax per dollar. Four cents goes to the state, with 1 cent each to the SPLOST, the education E-SPLOST and LOST.