By Tia Lynn Ivey
Although the deadline is fast approaching for the City of Madison and Morgan County to come to a Service Delivery Strategy (SDS) agreement, the two government entities seem to be at a standstill.
“Nothing to report at this time,” said City Manager David Nunn when asked if any meetings to negotiate SDS with the county were in the works. “We could always file an extension for the deadline if we need to.”
“Nothing is happening,” said County Attorney Christian Henry. “There are no talks or meetings arranged to work it out at this time.”
However, this may only be the calm before the storm, according to Henry.
“I think as long as someone wants more money from someone else, it’ll probably end up in court,” said Henry.
The City and County have been butting heads over SDS since last year, with both sides digging their heels in the ground during two joint negotiation meetings in 2016. The City is unsatisfied with the current agreement, claiming Madison residents unfairly contribute over $1.5 million in ad valorem taxes annually for select services that are either primarily, even exclusively, utilized by county residents outside the city limits or unnecessarily duplicated by the county that the city already provides. The county, on the other hand, claims the services they provide, in totality, benefit everyone in the county, including Madison residents, and in some cases, disproportionately benefit Madison city residents. City officials have argued that city residents pay county taxes that go toward the maintenance and repair of roads, but that money is only used on county roads. City officials also listed solid waste pickup, animal control, fire services, police services, and county administration costs as services from which city residents do not adequately benefit.
While both county and city officials have publicly commented on the need for both sides to sit down together to work it out, no action has been taken to make that happen as of yet, despite a June 30 deadline looming.
The county commissioned an independent study from the University of Georgia to analyze the services provided by the county to the city. According to Henry, the analysis supports the county’s position but they are still waiting on the official written results from that study.
If the city and county cannot negotiate a new SDS before the deadline, the next step is a request for a legal mediator to head up negotiations. If that fails, the city and county will have to hash it out in court.