COCHRAN, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – The city of Cochran filed suit against Bleckley County and it all boils down to a penny.
Negotiations for the distribution of the new Local Options Sales Tax funds started in June, but city and county officials failed to make an agreement. So in order to keep the tax from lapsing, the city filed suit. The county then filed a counter suit.
"We needed to file the civil action, if we wanted to continue the tax past December 31st," said Ray Gibson, Cochran City Manager.
For the past decade, the LOST funds were split between the municipalities evenly. But now, the county wants to change that.
"In negotiations, the city was willing to go with a less amount," said Alvin Arnold, Bleckley County attorney, "but the county was not willing to."
The debate boils down to pennies and population.
The county has a larger population than the city and feels its size needs to be considered in the new deal. However, the city, according to Gibson provides more services to the area. He feels they need more money to do so. Gibson and Cochran Mayor Pro Tem Willie Basby both say they'd be satisfied with 50% of the tax, but nothing less.
"We have the data, we provide hospitals, jobs," said Gibson, "and they all cost money."
According to Arnold, every 10 years when the LOST is distributed, it always sparks a debate. This is the first time in more than 30 years the issues lead to litigation. Both sides have met with negotiators and attorneys and believe it will be settled before the suit goes before a judge.