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LOST deal likely
Agreement is expected soon
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Top local government officials say an agreement over the 1-cent local option sales tax, or LOST, likely will be reached soon.

Representatives from the city of Dawsonville and Dawson County agreed to suspend mediation Aug. 21 after huddling with a mediator in an attempt to resolve negotiations.

"What this means is you either go back to your board to see if you can reach a compromise or you go back to mediation," said County Commission Chair Mike Berg. "I'm hopeful we can get this settled.

"You always want the city and the county to work well together and this is just a part of that."

Once every 10 years, the two governments must determine a split of revenue from the sales tax, which is intended to ease their reliance on property taxes to operate.

Last negotiated in 2002, the current split sends 86 percent of the revenue to the county and 14 percent to the city.

That includes, through an intergovernmental agreement, the city paying the county no less than $120,000 annually for law enforcement protection and $40,000 per year for fire services, determined through a percentage of LOST collections.

In 2011, the tax brought in about $5.2 million for the county's general fund, and is expected to pull in about $5.5 million, or 27 percent, of the county's general fund budget this year.

The tax is separate from SPLOST, or the special purpose local option sales tax that was extended in 2007.

SPLOST revenue must be approved by voters in a referendum and can be used only for designated projects.

Berg said the disagreement is essentially about the city requesting more money.

The lengthy negotiation process began in mid-May with a letter from the county to the city requesting an informal meeting to commence the negotiations.

When the two entities could not reach an agreement July 12, they entered nonbinding mediation.

On Monday, Dawsonville Mayor James Grogan said he feels a resolution is within reach.

"I think we will get it settled at some point real soon," he said.

In the event the two entities cannot agree, they will go back into non-binding mediation.

If unsuccessful, the mediation would then go to arbitration, with a binding outcome to be determined by a Superior Court judge.

Similar mediation occurred in 2007 during SPLOST V negotiations between the city and the county. The current agreement was settled without going to court.