According to state law, if a petition isn’t filed with the court and no agreement is reached before Dec. 31, LOST funds expire.
Catoosa County manager Mike Helton said the one-cent sales tax on each dollar generates $8-9 million a year, which is divided between the county and its two cities. All three groups depend on LOST funds to avoid raising property taxes and to keep their daily operating budgets functional.
For the past 10 years, 70.6 percent (about $6.65 million) has been given to the county, while 20.47 percent (about $1.9 million) went to Fort Oglethorpe and 9.47 percent (about $900,000) went to Ringgold.
State law mandates the division be negotiated, prepared and filed with the Georgia Internal Revenue Service every 10 years, generally coinciding with the federal census. The most recent census took place in 2010.
Despite negotiations, which began in June, and the outside help of a professional mediator, officials from Catoosa County and its two cities — Ringgold and Fort Oglethorpe — have been unable to agree on how to split the revenue for the next decade.
Helton said the county is proposing an increase, in its amount, of about 8 percent, which would lower the cities’ amounts. He said although “point of sale” and debt are deciding factors, there are eight criteria incorporated by law to determine the rates. Other criteria are service delivery responsibilities to the daytime (business) population as well as residential population, intergovernmental agreements (for example, fire and rescue) tax equity and other service delivery obligations.
While negotiations are still permissible, filing papers will halt the expiration. Should talks and a settlement fail, “baseball arbitration” will take affect, meaning an outside superior court judge would make a determination in favor of one of the parties, with little to no adjustments made.