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Opinion: Sales tax stalemate delays Cumming's budget

The City of Cumming will have to postpone hearings regarding the 2023 City Budget due to ongoing negotiations with Forsyth County concerning the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST).

The City and county entered into mediation earlier this year, but since that process did not bring the two entities closer to an agreement, the City of Cumming will not be able to hold its 2023 Budget hearings in November as usual. Typically, city staff present the upcoming year’s budget to the mayor and City Council at the regular City Council meeting in November, then a public hearing is held at the December work session.

The budget is typically then adopted at the December regular meeting. If the City and county cannot reach an agreement concerning the division of LOST revenue by Dec. 31, 2022, neither party will receive any LOST revenue in 2023.

Additionally, the ability to levy LOST by either entity will cease completely until a new voter referendum can be held. Typically, the City of Cumming receives approximately $7 million a year, while Forsyth County receives approximately $50 million a year, from LOST. This revenue represents a substantial portion of each government’s yearly budget. If the City of Cumming receives no revenue from LOST, it will mean major budget cuts will have to be put in place for the city next year. But, even if this scenario comes into play (which we very much are hoping against), I want to thoroughly reassure City of Cumming residents that the city will NOT impose a City of Cumming municipal property tax. The one thing that the entire City Council and I can always agree upon: We will NOT reinstate a City of Cumming municipal property tax as long as we hold office.

This means that the cty will be forced to cut services in order to make ends meet. Since Forsyth County will also see budget reductions if an agreement cannot be met concerning LOST, the Board of Commissioners will have to decide if the county will cut its services or raise property taxes (which would impact both county and city residents).

I believe the City of Cumming has sought a very fair percentage of the LOST revenue. This percentage is the same percentage that the city has received for the past several years. In other words, despite ever-increasing costs, the City of Cumming is not asking for any more revenue from LOST than it has received for many years – the same percentage that the county has been amicable to for all of those previous years. While I understand the City of Cumming’s population is much smaller than that of Forsyth County, we also have to bear in mind that many of the retail developments from which LOST monies are generated are located within the Cumming city limits; therefore, the percentage the city seeks, I believe, is very reasonable and fair.

I genuinely hope that the elected officials of Forsyth County and the City of Cumming can reach a fair agreement soon; otherwise, our entire community – both city and county - will suffer in 2023.

— Troy BrumbalowMayor of the City of Cumming