BONIFAY – A tentative agreement between the county and five municipalities concerning funds from the Local Option Gas Tax (LOGT) has been reached, pending the approval of the Holmes County Board of Commissioners, which is expected to be given when the board meets August 6.
The LOGT is a five-cent gas tax on every gallon of motor fuel and special fuel sold in Holmes County with tax proceeds used exclusively for transportation expenditures within the county.
The breakdown and disbursement of the LOGT funds has been an ongoing discussion since 2014.
The initial interlocal agreement was made 30 years ago with the county receiving 86 percent, Bonifay 10 percent and Esto, Noma, Ponce de Leon and Westville each receiving one percent.
In 2014, the agreement was renewed amid demands from Ponce de Leon for a bigger slice of the pie.
When Congressman Matt Gaetz visited Ponce de Leon in April, a round table discussion was held in which council members expressed their frustrations with the tug of war between the county and its municipalities, citing a lack of action by the state to help resolve the issue.
Gaetz advised he would set up a conference call between his office, State Representative Brad Drake’s office, Florida Department of Revenue and the town of Ponce de Leon to begin the process of finding a solution to the matter. Gaetz's District Director Dawn McArtle was in attendance at Thursday's meeting to keep the Congressman apprised of the situation. A follow-up conference call with Gaetz, County Attorney Jeff Goodman, and Ponce de Leon Attorney Lyndia Spears is expected to happen next week.
In October 2016, all the municipalities, the county and an accountant from Carr, Riggs and Ingram Accounting firm gathered to discuss the matter. It was decided that all municipalities would gather their paperwork concerning transportation expenditures over the past five years to turn into the firm. Once submitted, the firm would determine the statutory disbursement of the funds to each party.
Not all municipalities turned paperwork in on time, however, leading to the situation remaining unchanged.
Members of Ponce de Leon Town Council and the City Clerk attended a commission meeting last month to bring the issue back to the forefront.
A subsequent meeting was scheduled to discuss the matter once again.
During the meeting, Ponce de Leon Mayor Ron Farrington spoke of feeling brushed off by the county.
“After the meeting in October, we were hopeful that a resolution would be coming," said Farrington. "When that didn’t happen, the issue wasn’t brought up again until we came before you last month."
Holmes County Commission Chairman Clint Erickson stated he had no previous knowledge of the arrangement.
“I was unaware of the situation as a newly elected commissioner," said Erickson. "I have had to play catch up pretty quickly. This is an important issue that needs to be addressed and taken care of.”
A tentative resolution was reached during a July 20 joint meeting, during which a new interlocal agreement was reached.
Should county commissioners vote to approve the agreement in their August 6 meeting, the distribution will be dealt as follows: 85 percent will go to the county (a one percent decrease); 9.5 percent to the City of Bonifay (a .5 percent decrease); 2.5 percent to Ponce de Leon (a 1.5 percent increase) and one percent each to Noma, Esto and Westville (all unchanged).
The interlocal agreement will last for five years, giving each municipality time to gather data so that paperwork can be submitted and evaluated for the statutory formula to be used for 10 years thereafter.
“I am happy that an agreement was reached and that we can put this issue behind us,” said Farrington.