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City commission will discuss revenue split
City commissioners will convene today to discuss the distribution of the 1 percent Local Option Sales Tax after rejecting a tentative agreement with Glynn County last week.

The commission voted 4-1, with Mayor Bryan Thompson dissenting, last week to back off from a mediated agreement reached Aug. 31 with the county and return to the drawing board.

If the city and county commissions cannot reach an agreement about how to split the 1 percent sales tax that generates about $18.3 million annually, then the two will be forced to let a judge decide the issue. Each government would be required to submit a plan to a Superior Court judge outside of the Brunswick Judicial Circuit who would choose one of the plans without modification.

No commissioner wants that to happen, said City Commissioner Johnny Cason.

"I don't want to go to arbitration, but I know that we've got to have some strong medicine right now. The illness is not going to be cured with an aspirin," Cason said, referring to the city's financial woes.

Commissioner Julie Martin said she'd like to see the city receive a larger portion of the tax but believes it may be an unrealistic goal.

Currently, the city receives 35 percent of the tax and the county 65 percent.

When negotiations started in May, the city asked for 37 percent and the county 81 percent.

After hiring an outside mediator, representatives from the city and county commissions tentatively agreed for the county to receive 73 percent and the city 27 percent with the county also taking over the city's recreation programs, animal control and traffic light maintenance.

Some in the community took issue with handing over city athletic programs to the county's recreation department and spoke against it at a public hearing last week. After the hearing, the commission voted to reject the agreement.

Now, some are encouraging the city to ask for a larger share.

"This is very much like fighting windmills," said Brunswick businessman Robert Torras in an email to The News.

Torras has talked with members of the city commission and encouraged them to ask for between 50 and 75 percent of the tax.

He noted the city made investments in the past that helped the county get to where it is today. That includes paying the $800,000 it cost to build the F.J. Torras Causeway in the early 1920s.

"The investments made for the benefit of the islands by the city of Brunswick has resulted in the Golden Isles becoming a magnet for retirees and for people who could afford to live by the coast while working in the city of Brunswick," Torras said in a letter sent to The News, adding that the city aided the county financially when it fell upon hard times and it's now the county's turn to repay the favor.

Thompson said he hopes the commission will reach an agreement today and avoid arbitration because time is running short, but he continues to stand by the agreement reached in mediation.

"Certainly I still feel that the agreement that we reached on Aug. 31 was a fair and equitable agreement," Thompson said.

City Commissioners James Brooks and Cornell Harvey did not return phone calls Wednesday.



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