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08 September 2013

North Fulton Cities Fare Well in Local Option Sales Tax Negotiations

The Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) is one of the most significant sources of revenue for municipal governments, according to the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA).

The LOST is a one percent sales tax that everyone pays whenever they make a purchase at the grocery store or the gas station, regardless of whether they own property in the county or city where the purchase was made. LOST dollars are then distributed to the cities and counties using a formula negotiated by the local governments every decade.

After much wrangling, Fulton County and its fourteen cities appear to have settled on a new LOST distribution formula. The county, which has seen most of its land absorbed into newly incorporated municipalities, won't receive as much LOST dollars as it did before, while cities like Johns Creek and Alpharetta will see their LOST proceeds increase.

In the table below, a side-by-side comparison between the old LOST formula and the new LOST formula is shown:

Local Government


City of Alpharetta5.2243%5.8116%+0.5873%
City of Atlanta42.8762%40.4358%-2.4404%
City of
Chattahoochee Hills
City of College Park2.0867%1.5808%-0.5059%
City of East Point4.3925%3.9590%-0.4335%
City of Fairburn0.6062%N/AN/A
City of Hapeville0.6856%0.6856%0%
City of Johns Creek6.9673%7.7481%+0.7808%
City of Milton1.7058%3.2982%+1.5924%
City of
Mountain Park
City of Palmetto0.3409%0.4229%+0.082%
City of Roswell8.8011%8.9213%+0.1202%
City of
Sandy Springs
City of
Union City
Fulton County15.1891%14%-1.1891%

Cities in north Fulton (Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Milton, Mountain Park, Roswell, and Sandy Springs) saw their share of the LOST dollars increase by a combined 3.0808%.  Atlanta, unincorporated south Fulton County, and the cities of Chattahoochee Hills, College Park, East Point, Fairburn, Hapeville, Palmetto, and Union City saw their share of the LOST dollars decrease by a combined 3.8114%.

State law mandates that before the new LOST formula can go into effect, it must first be approved by qualifying municipalities representing not less than a majority of the aggregate population of all qualifying municipalities located within the special district. In other words, the LOST formula must be approved by cities representing a majority of the population in all the cities in Fulton County before the new LOST distribution formula can be implemented.

City councils in the fourteen cities located within Fulton County are currently considering the new LOST agreement.  Alpharetta and Sandy Springs approved the new LOST formula unanimously at their 3 September city council meetings.

According to budget documents, in fiscal year 2013, Fulton County and its fourteen cities took in an estimated $220 million in Local Option Sales Tax Dollars.