Fulton Commission Chairman Robb Pitts

Fulton County Commission Chairman Rob Pitts shared a letter he sent to the county’s 15 mayors stating the county wished to return to mediation over distribution of local option sales tax (LOST) revenue.

The county and city negotiators last attended a mediation session on Oct. 7, but no agreement on how the sales tax revenue – estimated to be more than $3 billion over 10 years – was reached.

“The county has received no response from the cities to our offer to continue mediation on Oct. 21, 2022 regarding the LOST distribution for the next 10 years. As we expressed to you on Oct. 7, Fulton County does wish to continue the mediation process to reach a mutually beneficial solution,” Pitts said in his letter dated Oct. 20.

“We appreciate the chairman’s commitment to mediation and finding a solution. That’s major progress from the county threatening the nuclear option of letting the tax expire,” a statement from the 15 mayors said.

Fulton County seeks additional funding to address crises in public safety and public health, Pitts said in his letter.

The large number of detainees who were arrested by police officers in the cities, and jail overcrowding has led to the county spending $28 million annually on leasing jail beds from other jurisdictions.

The closure of two hospitals in the county is sending residents to other providers, who have already asked the county for $140 million annually.

Pitts said the cities offer of increasing the county’s share by $2 million each year was inadequate. He said the county’s offer would not cause the cities to experience reductions in annual LOST revenue. Eight different offers from the county would maintain or increase the cities’ current LOST revenues of the next 10 years, he said.

“Chairman Pitts is incorrect that the county’s offer would preserve current revenues for all of the cities,” the mayors’ statement said. “The large and sudden increase the chairman wants would in fact reduce city revenues – a nonstarter at a time when cities are battling inflation and fighting to attract and retain police and other city employees. We are encouraged that this continued communication will lead us to a mutually beneficial agreement.”

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.