County Commission Chairman Tom Worthan and the mayors of Douglasville, Austell and Villa Rica announced recently that after months of negotiations, they had come to an agreement on splitting the annual Local Option Sales Tax funds.
Worthan said he was happy the group was able to reach a deal more than four months before the state-mandated Dec. 31 deadline.
“That’s cooperation,” he said during a ceremony announcing the pact. “Negotiations are sometimes not easy, and there were times when this negotiation wasn’t easy, but we have reached a good solution that will serve all of us well for the next 10 years.”
Douglasville Mayor Harvey Persons agreed the meetings were contentious at times but the elected leaders and their staffs wanted to avoid sending the issue to court for a judge to decide.
“That’s what we’re elected to do: to lead and govern,” Persons said.
City officials used such factors as its increased daytime population — at such large retailers as Arbor Place Mall — to argue for a larger slice of the pie, the mayor said.
“When negotiations are successful, that benefits all parties. If you can’t negotiate, and you end up in court, usually one party is not as happy as another,” Persons said.
Local Option Sales Tax is used by local governments in Georgia to offset the need for higher property taxes. Shoppers in Douglas County have paid the 1 percent tax since 1979 after voters approved it in 1978.
The latest annual amount was $21.9 million, with Douglas County receiving 79 percent and Douglasville 20 percent. Villa Rica and Austell — cities whose areas are divided between Douglas and other counties — split the remainder.
The new division increases Douglasville’s share to 22 percent in 2013, with continued annual increases thereafter, to a maximum 28 percent in 2022.
Villa Rica will see its 2013 share jump to nearly 4 percent. By 2022, the city’s share will be just over 5 percent.
Douglas County, meanwhile, will see its portion drop to 74 percent in 2013. It continues dropping annually before bottoming-out at 66 percent in 2022.
Worthan, Persons, Austell Mayor Joe Jerkins and Villa Rica Mayor Jay Collins jointly made the announcement.
The governing bodies of each city and the county must formally approve the plan.