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Sunday July 5th, 2015 11:03AM

Hall and its cities hold emergency session to re-do LOST

By Jerry Gunn Reporter
GAINESVILLE - Hall County and its cities met in emergency called session Thursday afternoon and agreed to revise the Local Option Sales Tax distribution certificate originally approved on Tuesday and sent to the State Revenue Department.

It was an emergency because $26-million in sales tax revenue was at stake and all the cities except Braselton and Buford sent representatives; their attorney sent an email agreement.

The Revenue Department decided that all incorporated cities had to sign off on the distribution and it had to be based on 2010 census population figures; County Commission Chairman Dick Mecum said it was a surprise.

"The way the Department of Revenue worded their letter changed whole game," Mecum said. "They were supposed to have sent that to us yesterday but they didn't send it until after we had sent in our certificate of declaration."

Mecum said the State Revenue letter stipulated that all incorporated cities had to agree on distribution, but in the past and according to state law, the city with 50 percent or more in population can sign with the county.

"In this particular case because they've changed everything we've had to go back and re-do the whole thing," Mecum said. "Basically the Department of Revenue in my opinion has generated their own legislation and said all the incorporated cities had to sign off on it; in the past that was not the law nor was it needed. It threw a wrinkle in the whole thing."

The Revenue Department's requirement to use the 2010 census paid off for some cities but not for Gainesville or Hall County. According to Mecum,Gainesville gets $600,000 less and Hall County's share is reduced by $200,000.

"The figures that we were using were the 2000 census," Mecum added. "The incorporated portions of Hall County other than Gainesville wanted to use the 2010 census. Flowery Branch and Oakwood have grown more and they wanted their greater share based on the 2010 Census, and that's what the complaint was all about."

Flowery Branch Mayor Mike Miller was not complaining Thursday, saying the revision was better for his city.

"The agreement earlier this week was not unanimous among all the cities and the county but cooler heads prevailed today,we have a clean certificate with percentages everyone agrees are fair and we're all happy with it," Miller said. "Everybody gets a percentage pretty close to the 2010 census numbers."

Flowery Branch gets 2.92 percent of LOST revenues under the revised distribution; the earlier amount was 1.39 percent.The other cities including Braselton, Buford, Clermont, Gillsville, Lula, and Oakwood also gained LOST revenue.

There was a 430 P.M. deadline to get the revision to the Revenue Department; after all the cities agreed, it was emailed to Atlanta.
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