DCSS sales tax down 50 percent

ALBANY -- Revenues from sales tax collections for the Dougherty County School System are down this month by nearly 50 percent, presumably because of a state-mandated refund of sales tax to a local manufacturer, officials say.

Monday, Dougherty County Commissioners learned that more than $475,000 of sales tax revenues had been withheld by the Georgia Department of Revenue.

An audit of a local manufacturer -- whose identity has also been withheld by the state -- revealed that it had been improperly been paying sales taxes on machinery used in manufacturing between 1999 and 2007, officials say.

For the city of Albany, that number is more than $800,000, Finance Director Kris Newton said.

Tuesday, DCSS Finance Director Robert Lloyd confirmed that the school system was also coping with what he said was an "adjustment" of 50 percent from last October or roughly $614,000 for the month. Unlike the city and the county, Lloyd says the state did not notify them why the money was stripped away.

"I have no explanation for why that money was withheld," Lloyd said. "We were given no reasons why."

Lloyd said the amount should not immediately impact any existing school system projects and will largely be offset by an apparent bonus the state department of revenue gave the system back in May.

That mistake by the DOR flowed hundreds of thousands of dollars into the coffers of the city, county and school system because DOR officials said they collected sales tax money but weren't sure from who, so they divvied it out to every SPLOST participant.

Meanwhile, the state has yet to respond to the Herald's request for information about the company involved in the incident. Georgia law gives government officials up to three business days to respond to open records requests.