published Saturday, August 4th, 2012

Walker County, Ga., cities discuss sales tax split

CITIES TO SPLIT LOST

Chickamauga

LaFayette

Lookout Mountain

Rossville

Negotiations got under way Thursday over how to split up the local option sales tax revenue in Walker County, Ga., over the next 10 years.

Cities hope to take a much larger chunk of the 1 cent sales tax than the county is willing to give up.

"Miles apart" is how Walker County Attorney Don Oliver described the two sides' ideas for splitting the LOST, which Oliver said is worth $4 million to $5 million a year.

Now the county gets 80 percent of the LOST and the cities share the remaining 20 percent.

But at a meeting Thursday night at Sole Commissioner Bebe Heiskell's office in LaFayette, the cities proposed cutting the county back to 55 percent, giving the cities 45 percent to share.

A consultant hired by LaFayette came up with that split, and Walker County's three other incorporated cities are following LaFayette's lead.

LaFayette City Manager Frank Etheridge couldn't be reached for comment Friday.

Rossville Mayor Teddy Harris, who was at the meeting, said he hopes the cities will get a larger percentage of LOST.

"Who would want to turn money down?" Harris asked Friday. "Of course, we would want more."

Oliver said the split proposed by the cities would devastate the county's budget.

"It's not anything we could work with," he said.

County and city officials will meet again at 7 p.m. Thursday in Heiskell's office to take a second look at the LOST split.

Georgia counties and their cities are having these discussions because the state recently changed the way they negotiate the sales tax split.

"This is not a good thing the state has done to us — the state having the cities and counties ... fight with each other," Oliver said.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.

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