LEESBURG, Ga. — Lee County Commissioners have come to an agreement on how the county will divide Local Option Sales Tax Revenue — a decision that a couple of commissioners believe will prevent the breakup of Smithville as a municipality.
Commissioners voted 3-1 to give Lee County 81 percent of the sales tax revenue during the next 10 years, while giving Leesburg 13 percent and Smithville 6 percent.
The agreement came after sparring between Commission Vice Chairman Rick Muggridge and District 1 Commissioner Dennis Roland, whose district includes both Leesburg and Smithville.
Muggridge opposed the sales tax plan, contending the split should more closely mirror population. He said he opposed giving Smithville 6 percent “not because I am mean, but because it is unfair.”
“They represent less than 2 percent of the population, but will get 6 percent of the LOST revenue,” Muggridge said. He initially asked the commission to consider a split of 81 for the county, 15 percent for Leesburg and 4 percent for Smithville.
Muggridge later agreed to adjust that to 14 percent for Leesburg and 5 percent for Smithville. He was unable to get either of the amendments seconded.
“The vitality of a community is not based on having a city government,” Muggridge said.
A negotiating committee of the county commissioners and officials with Leesburg and Smithville met previously, resulting in the recommended split of 81-13-6.
Chairman Ed Duffy admitted that much of Muggridge’s argument was sound if based solely on using a population guide for the division.
However, Duffy said the county government could wind up spending more than the extra $110,000 it is granting Smithville if the county had to assume responsibility for water and sewer, public works and public safety for Smithville residents.
“We gave them more than they were entitled to, but we did this out of a spirit of cooperation,” Duffy said.
Roland said many things involving taxation are not fair.
“I see many people in this room who pay outrageous taxes, but do not have adequate services, but they pay for Mr. Muggridge’s district to have those things,” Roland said.
“We live in a nation of compassionate people,’ Roland said. “I don’t know when Smithville was chartered, but I certainly do not want to be the one who was going to take away its charter.”
“This is not my money,” Muggridge countered. “This is for the people of Lee County and I don’t have the right to be compassionate with their money.”
Roland made the motion for the 81-13-6 split and was seconded by Commissioner Bill Williams and supported by Commmissioner Betty Johnson.
The agreement reached Tuesday has to be signed by Leesburg and Smithville officials and forwarded to the State Department of Revenue within 15 days.