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City demands $212,574 from county plus more

After reviewing an analysis of the 2008 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax presented by the city’s auditor Monday night, the Cairo City Council made no bones about what they want. They want the Grady County Commission to remit the city’s remaining share of the tax proceeds and to do so immediately.
City officials were first alerted to accounting issues with the 2008 SPLOST by Cairo businessman John Brannon over a year ago.
“I want to thank John Brannon for bringing this to our attention. This has been going over a year. John got involved in this over the aquatic center and got to digging. He came to me last March with information that he thought the county owed the city over $200,000,” Cairo City Councilman James H. (Jimmy) Douglas said Monday night.
The precise number, according to the city’s auditor, Tom Carmichael of Carr, Riggs & Ingram, is $212,574, but the city officials are demanding even more.
Based on Carmichael’s analysis, the county continued to disburse sales tax proceeds to projects jointly funded by the city and county over and above the amounts stipulated in the intergovernmental agreement for the 2008 SPLOST.
Councilman Douglas says the city is due an additional $44,670.60, which is 39 percent of the additional $114,540 the county disbursed to the joint projects without the city’s knowledge or approval.
SPLOST funding split by the city and county went to the Grady County Hospital Authority, Roddenbery Memorial Library, Grady County Historical Society, and City of Whigham.  $900,000 was earmarked for the aquatic center, which has not been constructed.
On a positive note, the 2008 SPLOST generated $1,419,471 more than the $14 million that was projected. City leaders said that once the funding for the various projects was collected and expended, in accordance with the intergovernmental agreement, then the county should have ceased disbursing funds to those joint projects without the consent of the city council.
“Apparently, the money has been sitting in this account for several years and they’ve known a portion of it was ours. They know what they paid and they know what they collected. They should have paid us several, several months ago,” Councilman Douglas said.
Douglas made a motion to request the county pay the city the $212,574, which is the city’s 39 percent shared of the over collection of sales taxes. He then made a second motion to demand $44,670.60, or 39 percent, of the sales taxes remitted to the various joint projects over and above what was called for in the intergovernmental agreement. Both motions were seconded by Councilman Ernest Cloud and passed unanimously.
Councilman Jerry Cox took issue with the county’s failure to adhere to the provisions included in the intergovernmental agreement and lack of issuance of certificates of completion for the individual projects.
According to Cox, the county violated the agreement by not building the aquatic center in accordance with the priority list set forth in the agreement.
“If this was not the priority list, it should have never been listed as the priority list in the agreement,” Cox said.
Cairo City Attorney Thomas L. Lehman said he was “intrigued” by the county’s actions and questioned why it took the city having its auditor to account for what is owed to the city.
“I don’t know if they intended to use it for the ‘aquatic center’ or whether, in fact, they were just going to hide it over there,” Lehman said.
Councilman Douglas, who also chairs the council’s finance committee, requested the city obtain an accounting of the 2014 SPLOST.
“That should be easier to obtain since there were no special projects,” Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton said.
“The 2008 should have been very simple to figure out, too,” Douglas responded.
Douglas reminded the council the city had previously put the county on notice that the city would be owed 39 percent of whatever is left from the aquatic center construction if it cost less than the projected $900,000.
Carmichael met with county commissioners last week to present the county’s 2016 audit. During that report he also briefly mentioned that the city was owed for its share of the over collection of the 2008 SPLOST. The auditor said a final accounting of the SPLOST could not be completed until the aquatic center project was completed, but did not go into extensive details.
“I thought after they got the report from the auditor last week we would have had a check on Wednesday or Thursday,” Douglas commented.
Grady County Administrator Carlos Tobar on Tuesday declined to answer questions regarding the county’s accounting of the SPLOST proceeds. Tobar did say, “The numbers are what they are. I will talk to the commissioners about how to resolve this.”

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