Legislative Teleconference

Officials from across southwest Georgia made history Wednesday.

They were the first local officials ever to meet with state legislators in Atlanta, over a fiber-optic network.

Sen. John Bulloch and Rep. Richard Royal met with over a dozen city officials from Thomasville, Cairo, Camilla and Moultrie.

Although they were separated by many miles, plenty of issues were brought to the table.

For years, south Georgia city officials have been trying to work out a fair way to divide up the special purpose local option sales tax, or SPLOST.

"Currently counties are the only ones that decide where the funds need to be spent without any input from the cities,” Thomasville Mayor Rick Singletary says.

"All the cities really want is equal representation, equal say-so in the referendum that brings about that tax,” adds Lance Arnett, Assistant City Manager.

Wednesday morning, local representatives brought this and other issues to legislators' attention, for the first time ever, live from Thomasville to Atlanta over a fiber-optic network.

"They're fresh, they talk about things they discussed or voted on yesterday or will vote on tomorrow, so we get to have input, they get to tell us where things are, I think it's government at its best!” comments City Manager Tom Berry.

Local officials had an hour to voice their opinions on the SPLOST tax, water usage in rural areas compared to usage in Atlanta, and the taxes being lost by Georgia residents registering their vehicles in Florida.

"If we've got some documentation (taxes) haven't been paid and on where we're falling through the holes, we need to patch some of those holes up and be sure everyone is paying their share,” Bulloch explains.

City officials say this isn't the end of face-to-face meetings, but when time is tight, teleconferencing goes the distance.

Wednesday’s video conference was just a sounding board for area officials' concerns, no decisions were made on any of the topics.

Rep. Richard Royal did say the state could face up to a billion dollars in cuts to fund budgets that have been proposed, which includes education departments across Georgia.