LAKE PARK —
LAKE PARK — Lowndes County’s municipal leaders met briefly Wednesday morning to continue discussions for the estimated $250 million Local Option Sales Tax revenue that will be generated during the next 10 years.
As expected, no one from the Lowndes County Commission was present. Lowndes County Commission Chairman Ashley Paulk said earlier this week that the cities’ proposal was unacceptable and no one from the county would attend.
“They have had plenty of meetings without us, so what’s different about this one?” Paulk said Wednesday in an interview after the meeting. “I knew from the outset, the climate that I was sensing that the cities ganging up together and meeting it would wind up with arbitration.”
At the meeting, instead of continuing negotiations, city leaders took turns making statements, mostly about how unfortunate it was county leadership did not attend.
“Leadership requires that we try to find compromise on the difficult issues, not just the easy ones,” said Valdosta Mayor John Gayle. “What is often missing in the political landscape these days is civility. We are committing ourselves as political leaders to negotiate in a civil, respectful manner and in a spirit of community and compromise.”
Paulk has made it clear in multiple interviews that the cities’ proposal of a 56.37 percent share is unacceptable. Paulk’s initial proposal for cities would provide 42 percent of the revenue split. He maintains that his alternative offer of 72 percent for the county and 28 percent for the cities is supported by the required criteria in LOST negotiations.
“The county has refused to discuss,” said Gayle at the meeting. “They made an offer which was not backed up by any facts or figures. Actually, it was a demand and we were to take it or leave it.”
The final day of initial LOST negotiations will be June 9. After this point, local leaders will enter mediation or non-binding arbitration for 60 additional days.
“I don’t see a reason (to attend further meetings) with the numbers they’ve given me,” said Paulk. “That’s not a negotiable number. I’m not going below the first number that I offered them. All my life in business has involved contracts and negotiations. I’m a pretty good judge of when things are futile and when people really don’t intend to come to a conclusion.”
City leaders scheduled another LOST negotiation meeting for 2 p.m. Wednesday, May 16, Dasher Community Center, 3686 U.S. Highway 41 South. The county is not expected to participate.
Cities host meeting; county does not attend
LAKE PARK —
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