City, county still LOST in tax dispute
By Stephanie Johns
Officials of the City of Madison and Morgan County continue to seek a solution to their dispute over distribution of Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) monies.
LOST is a 1 percent sales tax levied by the county and distributed among the county and its four municipalities: Bostwick, Buckhead, Madison and Rutledge.
The county receives 73 percent while Madison receives 22 percent, Rutledge receives 4 percent, and Buckhead and Bostwick receive the remaining 1 percent.
The county only has to reach an agreement with a city or cities that make up 50 percent or more of the municipal population, according to County Attorney Christian Henry during a Sept. 2012 interview.
Madison Mayor Bruce Gilbert and Councilman Michael Naples met with Morgan County Commission Chairwoman Ellen Warren and Commissioner Andy Ainslie last Thursday.
Regarding their Thursday meeting, Naples and Gilbert shared their impression of that meeting during the city’s work session on Friday.
“I’m not too optimistic,” Naples said.
Gilbert added, “Not from yesterday, I’m not.”
Naples said the city still hopes to come to a fair agreement.
“I just want to preclude one of us being a loser,” he said.
During a later interview, Ainslie explained that the city and the county touched base to see if there were any other grounds for negotiation.
“There will always be ongoing negotiations,” he said.
Ainslie said that both sides – the city and the county – are “receptive” to negotiations.
“Neither side has shut a door,” he said. “Each is willing to listen if something is offered.”
Ainslie said the two groups are “not very close” in the numbers that will be used in distributing LOST funds.
“More than likely it will be settled in court,” he said.
He explained if it goes to court the county and the city will each submit a number they feel is appropriate. The judge will then take one or the other of the two numbers. This is “baseball arbitration,” he said.
He added that a judge has the leeway to mediate or arbitrate between two parties.
“They’re not locked in,” he said.
Printed in the January 24, 2013 edition.