published Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Whitfield plans only one tax vote this fall

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DALTON, Ga. — Whitfield County residents will be asked to vote on only one tax referendum this fall, after school board members agreed Tuesday morning to remove a 1 percent sales tax option from the November ballot.

Whitfield County and Dalton City school board members had approved the tax referendum in July, saying the money was needed to pay down school debt and repair aging buildings. They met in a joint, special called meeting at City Hall on Tuesday morning to unanimously rescind the July vote.

During the meeting, Whitfield County school board Chairman Louis Fordham said the decision to remove the referendum came after hearing from community leaders.

"This is something we were encouraged to consider on behalf of our community," Fordham said. "In light of the economic conditions that continue to be challenging, we believe it is a good thing to do."

Fordham and Dalton schools board Chairman Steve Williams both said they expect to place the tax referendum back on the ballot sometime next year, asking for a four-year sales tax rather than the five-year proposal they made in July.

"It is up for continued discussion, but we are delaying it, for all intents and purposes, until next year," Williams said.

The county school system will push out some projects for a year to deal with the change, Fordham said. Specifically which projects have not yet been determined, he said.

County commissioners passed a resolution last week placing a two-year, 1 percent sales tax referendum on the ballot in November. If passed, the money will be used for capital projects, including improvements to the county's recreation department and a performing arts center for the city.

Whitfield County currently has a 6 percent sales tax, with 4 percent going to the state, 1 percent to local governments and 1 percent to the school systems.

The school system tax will roll off in December, so if the new county tax is approved in November, the sales tax will remain at 6 percent. If defeated, it will drop to 5 percent.

Residents also are scheduled to vote on a 1 percent regional transportation tax in July.

A 1 percent sales tax brings in about $16 million to $17 million for the county per year.

Some local leaders, including Dalton Mayor David Pennington, have strongly opposed any sales tax increase, saying the county would benefit economically from having a lower tax than surrounding counties.

about Mariann Martin...

Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...

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