Chatham County sends counteroffer as LOST negotiations continue

Published: Dec. 16, 2022 at 2:35 PM EST
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CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - There’s only two weeks left for area governments in Chatham County to make a deal on local option sales tax money.

Chatham County and the eight municipalities within the county have been going back and forth for weeks in contentious meetings. Thursday night, Savannah sent an offer to the county. Friday, the county made a counteroffer.

The clock is ticking on the time to come to a decision regarding the local option sales tax split between Chatham County and the eight municipalities within it. Friday, Chatham County commissioners put another deal on the table.

“Y’all said 24, we said 26. Can we split the difference right now and go 25, split the difference,” District 7 Chatham County Commissioner Dean Kicklighter said.

Friday morning’s Chatham County Commission meeting quickly turned into a negotiating room – with local city leaders involved in the sales tax negotiations in attendance. At times – both sides – getting heated.

“You want us to fall back to 24 so you can get the mayor re-elected. I’m telling you what was told to me,” Chatham County Commission Chairman Chester Ellis said.

“I am a nonpolitical, public servant to the City of Savannah and to Chatham County. If you want to talk about all of the things that have been whispered into my ear about what you need and what the commission needs in this deal, I’m willing to let it all air out here,” Savannah City Manager Jay Melder said.

They’re down to arguing over the last 1 percent of the money. Thursday’s offer from the municipalities would give the county 24 percent of the money in year one, increasing to 31 percent by 2027.

In Friday morning’s meeting, the county made a new offer – with 25 percent going to the county in the first year, increasing to 31 percent one year sooner, in 2026. Chairman Ellis says this deal still prevents further property tax increases.

“At 26, no one would have had to do anything with taxes. If we go to 25, nobody would have to do anything with taxes. But if we go to 24, the county would have to come up with $8 million,” Chairman Ellis said.

Melder agreed to present this offer to the other cities.

The deal presented by the county is now in the hands of the eight municipalities. Chairman Ellis says he hopes to have a deal signed by sometime next week.