Last Thursday at a special called meeting, the Clayton County Commission split 3-2 to approve the resolution allowing the county and its cities to enter into this agreement with Chairman Jeff Turner casting the deciding vote.
In addition to Turner, those supporting the measure were Commissioners Shana Rooks and Michael Edmondson with Commissioners Sonna Singleton and Gail Hambrick opposed.
The cities and county have been in negotiations on this issue for more than three years, said Lake City Mayor Willie Oswalt.
Under the Certification of Distribution agreement, the cities of Jonesboro, Lake City, Forest Park, College Park, Riverdale, Lovejoy and Morrow would, collectively, receive 31.41 percent of the sales and use tax the first year of the decade-long agreement with the county receiving 68.59 percent.
During the second year, the county’s portion would fall to 67.59 percent of the sales and use tax funds with the cities share, collectively, rising to 32.41.
The same one percentage point pattern continues into the third year with Clayton County’s portion falling to 66.59 with the cities portion rising to 33.41 percent.
As to their opposition, Hambrick said she had not had time to thoroughly review the resolution while Singleton said the agreement would result in higher taxes for citizens of unincorporated Clayton County.
Responding to Singleton’s statement, Turner said that, looking at the numbers, “that doesn’t appear to be the case.”
“The county approached the negotiations in a spirit of cooperation,” Turner said, adding the mayors of Clayton’s municipalities had worked closely with the county in creating the percentages each of the governmental entities would receive.
As to why an agreement was not reached earlier than the three plus years negotiations had been under way, Lake City Mayor Willie Oswalt put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the previous county administration.
“They would not sit down and talk with city representatives in good faith and in a spirit of cooperation and were also not receptive to any ideas we had,” Oswalt said.
“However, when Jeff Turner was elected chairman, a new spirit of cooperation developed which city representatives had not seen before,” he added.
Forest Park Mayor David Lockhart said the agreement has important implications for all those involved.
“Of course, my responsibilities are to the citizens of Forest Park and we will benefit from a larger share of the revenues than we did previously,” he said.
Lockhart continued that, on a broader scale, the agreement represents a “momentous first step in a new era of collaboration between Clayton County and its cities.”