published Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Sales tax negotiations stall in Catoosa County

Former Fort Oglethorpe City Manager Ron Goulart
Former Fort Oglethorpe City Manager Ron Goulart
Ronnie Moore

Officials from Catoosa County, Ga., and its two cities, Ringgold and Fort Oglethorpe, weren't able to reach a compromise Tuesday on how to split millions of dollars of tax revenue during the next 10 years.

During a half-day mediation session that was closed to the public at the Colonnade Center in Ringgold, county officials sat in one room, city officials sat in another and shuttling between them was Murray Weed, a mediator with the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government.

Despite the mediator's help, the two sides weren't able to figure out how to reallocate the $9.45 million in annual revenue generated by the one-cent-per-dollar that comes from the local option sales tax, or LOST.

"We were just too far apart," Fort Oglethorpe City Manager Ron Goulart said Wednesday. "We'll just have to resolve it in arbitration."

Under the baseball-style arbitration, each side will make a proposal and a judge will pick one or the other — not a combination of the two.

The current split is roughly 70 percent for the county and 30 percent for the cities. When negotiations began, the cities proposed to cut the county's share to 61 percent, which would boost the cities' revenue by about $8 million or $9 million over a decade.

In response, the county proposed to take even more, almost 79 percent, which at 2011 rates would give it about $7 million over a decade.

County Attorney Chad Young, who took part in the Tuesday's mediation, still thinks the two sides can negotiate an agreement without going to arbitration.

"There wasn't any animosity that I ... picked up on," Young said. "Some movement was made on both sides, but we couldn't quite get there."

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.

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