What You Need to Know About the LOST Before You Cast Your Ballot

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by Lindsey Connell
WTVM News Reporter
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July 14, 2008

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WXTX)-- You've seen the commercials and billboards leading up to Tuesday's General Primary Election- Columbus Mayor Jim Wetherington says he wants to make Columbus the safest city in the country.

He plans to accomplish that with the proposed one percent local option sales tax, also called LOST.

Seventy percent would be dedicated to public safety and thirty percent would go to roads and the city's infrastructure.

If it passes, almost 200 new public safety positions would be created along with a salary increase for all sworn public safety officers.

Funds would also go towards various road projects at places like Moon Road and near St. Mary's Road and Buena Vista Road.

On Tuesday, the LOST will appear on the ballot as: "Shall the retail sales and use tax levied within the special district within Muscogee County be increased from 1% to 2%."

To break it down, right now in Muscogee County, the total sales tax is at 7%. Two special purpose local option sales taxes are set to expire in October 2008, taking Muscogee County's total sales tax down to 5%. Then if this new local option sales tax passes, it would raise the sales tax to 6% in January 2009.

If it passes, the LOST would raise $18 million in fiscal year 2009.

In our "Your Turn on 9" poll, we asked: "If you live in Columbus, how will you vote on the LOST?"

At last check, 51.8% said they would vote "No," 40% would vote "Yes," and 7.2% are undecided- the majority being against the LOST.

So we hit the streets to see what people are saying about the sales tax and what we found was totally different from our online poll results.

"I'm very much for the sales tax. I think we need more police protection and we certainly need our roads fixed and I hope it passes," said Lib Greer.

"We need more law enforcement and firefighters and everything," added Zolton Johnson.

"Our firemen and policemen certainly do need to have some increase in pay. They're out there working for all of us," said Sister Grace Marie.

"The roads do need to be fixed. That I do agree with," said Johnny Upshaw.

"I am supporting it. I feel like we do need to support our police and fire and all of our public service folks. We need an increase in that and that's the only way they're going to be able to do it," said Debra Johnson.

News Leader 9 also told you about an ethics complaint filed by the "Be Smart, Vote No LOST" organization against the "Vote Yes for Public Safety" committee.

The complaint stems from a $500 donation from Thomas Buck, Jr.  to "Yes for Public Safety."

The "Be Smart, Vote No LOST" group says the donation was received 79 days after Buck died.

The Georgia Ethics Commission says they will be handling the complaint, however, their spokesperson says there is nothing in the Ethics in Government Act that prohibits a settled estate from donating money to an individual or campaign.