So all our tax money the county spent on the alleged county attorney arguing before the state Supreme Court was wasted. The remaining law seems to say by 120 days from Monday the cities and the county need to come to an agreement.
Kay Harris wrote for the VDT yesterday, Lowndes LOST in limbo: Supreme Court tosses key amendment,
In a ruling issued Monday, Oct. 7, the Supreme Court of Georgia declared a 2010 amendment to the Local Option Sales Tax Act unconstitutional, reasoning that the amendment would delegate a legislative function of allocating tax proceeds to the judicial branch of government, a violation of the Separation of Powers clause of the Georgia Constitution.
The Supreme Court’s ruling came in the case of Turner County vs. the City of Ashburn over a dispute in splitting the proceeds from the one cent sales tax, the same issue in the Lowndes lawsuit. By declaring the portion unconstitutional that would allow a judge to decide how to allocate the tax dollars between the entities, the issue is now in limbo for several counties in Georgia.
At least SPLOST VI hasn’t expired yet and there’s time for the voters to go again on SPLOST VII in November.
What happens now with LOST?
The Georgia Supreme Court’s online press releases haven’t been updated since February, but Courtney Highfield, writing for Fox31Online 7 October 2013, quoted part of the PR:
Since the counties continued not discussing past the 1 Jan 2013 filing deadline for LOST, and collecting it only continued waiting for judicial arbitration, the county now has to stop collecting the tax. That doesn’t mean the county and the cities don’t get the revenue. Instead, property taxes will rise to match the missing $25 to $30 million to their general funds.
Does this mean the county’s property taxes will rise proportionately to account for the 58% percentage in the county’s position paper, same as previously negotiated in 2002?
As Gretchen said to WCTV a year ago:
It’s sort of sad because it is a waste, if you will, of taxpayer dollars. That the elected officials can’t get together and come to some agreement to say that they all understand how the money has to be divided up. Yeah, it’s sad that more money has to go to lawyers instead of being spent on services.
Now it looks like the county and the cities have 120 days from Monday to make up their minds, assuming that this part of O.C.G.A. §48-8-89 wasn’t also thrown out:
(5) If a new distribution certificate as provided for in this Code section is not received by the commissioner, the authority to impose the tax authorized by Code Section 48-8-82 shall cease, and the tax shall not be levied in the special district after such date unless the reimposition of the tax is subsequently authorized pursuant to Code Section 48-8-85. When the imposition of the tax is so terminated, the commissioner shall retain the proceeds of the tax which were to be distributed to the governing authorities of the county and qualified municipalities within the special district until the commissioner receives a certificate on behalf of each such governing authority specifying the percentage of the proceeds which each such governing authority shall receive. If no such certificate is received by the commissioner within 120 days of the date on which the authority to levy the tax was terminated, the proceeds shall escheat to the state, and the commissioner shall transfer the proceeds to the state’s general fund.
So our local legislative bodies need to be negotiating the LOST pie while trying to convince local taxpayers to vote for SPLOST VII in the November election. The alleged county attorney was quoted in the VDT story but didn’t mention this part.
The Times story concludes:
The Times will continue to follow the issue in the coming days to let readers know what the potential impact of the Supreme Court’s ruling may be.
Should be interesting. Meanwhile, maybe the county and the cities, instead of squabbling over the tax pie, could work on increasing local prosperity.