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Fulton cities fear county's proposed sales tax share increase will impact emergency services

Fulton cities fear county’s proposed sales tax share will impact emergency services
Fulton cities fear county’s proposed sales tax share will impact emergency services 02:21

FULTON COUNTY, Ga. (WUPA) – If cities in Fulton County lose any of their local option sales tax (LOST) revenue, it would cut into their budgets for emergency services, according to 15 mayors who have teamed up to form the website Save Fulton Cities to educate taxpayers.

Georgia law allows local governments to collect local option sales taxes to offset property taxes. Cities and counties negotiate how to divide up the money every 10 years.

Fulton County initially proposed to increase its LOST share from 5% to 35% but has since lowered its proposal to between 7% to 19%.

"It's still a huge impact on every single person that lives in a municipality in Fulton County," said College Park Mayor Bianca Motley Broom.

It's a move the mayors in the 15 cities say would particularly impact emergency services. They shared their concerns and took questions from residents during a recent town hall meeting.

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WUPA

"Some of the challenges are EMS. Last year, we responded to about 7,500 calls. I would say about 80% of those calls were emergency medical calls," said College Park Fire Chief Wade Elmore.

The proposed revenue distribution could reportedly impact the fire, police, public works, and parks and recreation departments. City officials have said they're already stretched thin and battling retention issues and limited resources.

"With this, I do not want to lose any personnel," Elmore said. "We need the services. We need the equipment."

The cities say it would leave no choice but to raise taxes or cut services, which could lead to job cuts.

"The county has rolled back their millage rate this year. You can't brag about rolling back your millage rate and then want to take it from the pockets of cities," said Broom.

The county says it's getting the short end of the stick as new cities form.

"The share for the LOST proceeds from the new city have to come out of the county's share," said District 2 Commissioner Bob Ellis.

The City of South Fulton was formed in 2017, dropping the county's share to about 5%. Ellis says at stake are efforts to boost funding for Grady Hospital following the closure of the Atlanta Medical Center and to address county jail overcrowding.

Ellis says the cities have received other funding sources and should be able to adjust their budgets.

"[The county] lost up to $160 million dollars in revenue that we were anticipating to take place between '17 and '22. Here, in that same period of time, cities outside of Atlanta got an additional $500 million in sales taxes outside of LOST to support their needs," he said.

Ellis says he's confident they'll come to a satisfactory agreement by the December 30, 2022 deadline.

A second mediation between the county and cities is scheduled for October 7, 2022.

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