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County/ City buries the hatchet

Tia Lynn Ivey News

By Tia Lynn Ivey

After years of negotiations, both the Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) and Madison Mayor and City Council have unanimously signed off on a new Service Delivery Strategy (SDS), which sets forth the services provided to the city from the county. The City and County have compromised, settling on increased SPLOST funds for the City of Madison to quell concerns over city residents being disproportionately taxed to pay for county services that city residents do not use or are duplicated by the City of Madison, such as animal control, fire services, and planning and zoning services. 

The BOC unanimously voted to accept the terms of the new SDS agreement on Thursday, Jan. 4. 

“We appreciate all your efforts on this,” said BOC Chairman Ron Miltion to County Manager Adam Mestres and county staff. 

“This is a big win for the entire community,” said Mestres. 

The City of Madison voted to approve the agreement in December. 

“I commend the county for working with the city to do this. Believe it or not, we have a great working relationship with the county,” said Madison Mayor Fred Perriman at the December meeting after the vote. 

Since 2016, the City of Madison has been petitioning the county to renegotiate the SDS Agreement, alleging over-taxation for county services. After more than two years of negotiations, the city and county have agreed to tweak certain services and make up the difference through Special Project Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds. The City of Madison will receive an increase percentage for the next SPLOST as part of the SDS agreement. The City’s percentage will be increased to 11.991 percent of all SPLOST VII revenues collected, beginning on April 1, 2019 through June 30, 2022. On July 1, 2022, the City’s SPLOST percentage will jump up to 21.899 percent of all SPLOST revenue through March 31, 2025.  The City believes under current SPLOST collection projections, the City will take in enough to complete $4 million worth of capital projects during the next SPLOST.

According to the city and the county, both governments disagree about whether, and to what extent, certain services may primarily benefit the unincorporated area of the County, as opposed to the entire County, including that part within the City. “Nevertheless, for the purposes of this Agreement and to resolve all differences between the City and County regarding the funding of six specific service delivery strategies—Animal Control; Building Inspections; Fire Protection; Land Use Planning; Zoning Administration; (f) and Zoning Enforcement–the Parties agree that City shall receive SPLOST revenues from SPLOST VII, beginning in Year Four of that SPLOST to resolve all disputes regarding funding for service delivery for these six, specific areas, between City and County through the end of the term of this Agreement.”

The City agreed to accept a higher percentage of SPLOST funds to compensate for services provided by the county from which that the city believes are they do not adequately benefit. 

According to the new agreement, “Madison and Morgan County strive for a good working partnership that will benefit all citizens of the County, not just citizens of Madison, and not just the unincorporated areas; working together for the benefit of all the citizens. That means servicing these areas in the most economical, beneficial way that will benefit citizens financially…”

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