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County settles up with city
Payments total $12.5 million
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Forsyth County News

As promised, Forsyth County delivered $2.5 million to Cumming before year's end.

"It was 3 p.m. on the 31st [of December]," said City Administrator Gerald Blackburn. "But yes, they did pay it. That's what the court settlement was, and that's fine."

The payment fulfilled an intergovernmental agreement between the entities that ended a lengthy legal battle over the most recent extension of the 1-cent sales tax.

Voters overwhelmingly supported the Feb. 5 ballot question to continue collecting the special purpose local option sales tax, known as SPLOST VI.

But after the election, the city challenged the wording of the referendum in court.

In April, a judge ruled in the city's favor, dismissing the referendum on the grounds that the ballot language deprived Cumming of using its tax share as city leaders felt best.

To prevent the loss of revenue while waiting to hold another referendum, the judge encouraged the governments to negotiate a compromise, giving them extra time before his decision would take effect.

In addition to the city's population-based 4.29 percent share of the five-year tax collection, officials decided the county would pay $10 million toward the city's aquatic center and $2.5 million toward any of the city's prioritized construction projects.

The agreement also required the county pay the city by Dec. 31.

"We complied with the agreement," said Bill Thomas, the county's chief financial officer.

The $10 million, which the city received earlier in December, came from the county's parks and green space bond sale, as per the agreement.

The $2.5 million came from the county's $33 million in reserves.

"There was a benefit (to holding the money until the due date)," said Thomas, noting the county earned $20,153 on the $2.5 million since June.

But the money was of little help to Forsyth County, which recently approved a 2009 budget nearly $20 million less than it's 2008 proposed budget.

Among cuts were 26 jobs, totaling about $1.22 million.

Blackburn said the city "received the $10 million on the 12th of December."

"We've already done some stuff on the aquatic center as far as hiring the architect and we're ready to move on it," he said. "The road projects, it'll take a little bit more time on them."