Cities, counties at risk of losing millions over Supreme Court decision

by: Aaron Diamant Updated:

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ATLANTA - Cities and counties around the state risk are at risk of losing millions of critical sales tax dollars if they can't cut deals by Thursday night.

The Atlanta City Council met at City Hall in emergency session with Mayor Kasim Reed Wednesday night to figure out their next move. Tens of millions of dollars are on the line, and time is running out.

"We need the money. I have never been as stressed about anything in my life," East Point Mayor Earnestine Pittman told Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant.

Pittman is among many worried a recent bombshell opinion by the Georgia Supreme Court will sink her city.

"We are talking about turning out the lights," said Myron Cook with the East Point City Council

The high court ruled the negotiating process written into state law to help reach new deals on how to carve up the cash collected from each county's local option sales tax, or LOST, is unconstitutional.

Dozens of city and county governments have used that arbitration process over the last couple years.

"When the pie is this big it's got to be sliced up in so many different ways, yeah, it gets contentious," said Amy Henderson with the Georgia Municipal Association.

In 2012, Fulton County and its 14 cities split more than $230 million in LOST dollars under the terms of an old deal that expired last December.

"This is millions of dollars that cities and counties use to roll back property tax rates for their citizens," Henderson said.

The city of Atlanta got more than $90 million to help pay for services like police, public works and trash pickup, but Fulton's governments have so far failed to agree on a new funding formula and file it with the state.

"What we've very much encouraged local jurisdictions to do is to agree on how they want this tax distributed," said Georgia Revenue Commissioner Douglas MacGinnitie.

MacGinnitie said it needs to happen by close of business Thursday, which is when the court's opinion takes effect, or risk having its LOST and the millions that go with it wound down.

"I'm sure that we're going to have to, I mean, when you're forced into this type of situation, you don't have many options but to work it out," said Atlanta City Councilwoman Felicia Moore

Of the metro Atlanta areas affected by the Supreme Court's opinion, Fulton and Henry counties have still not filed new LOST disbursement deals with the state. Hall and Fayette counties have.



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