published Friday, August 23rd, 2013

Walker County, Ga., cities make SPLOST wish lists; 1 cent sales tax up for renewal in November

List of projects SPLOST projects
List of projects SPLOST projects

SELECTED SPLOST PROJECTS

• Chickamauga: $1.1 million total to fund things such as $206,250 in street resurfacing and a new park at the American Legion Building

• Fort Oglethorpe: $102,000 total will include two police patrol cars for $56,000

• LaFayette: Splash park at the city recreation center and a boat ramp, fishing pier and other improvements at City Lake. (Cost breakdown not available.)

• Lookout Mountain: $600,000 total including solid waste department equipment for $110,000

• Rossville: $1.5 million total including $282,692 for eight patrol cars

• Walker County: $19.7 million including $9.1 million for road resurfacing and work and $30,000 for shooting range for the sheriff’s office and public use

City and county government officials in Walker County, Ga., have put together their wish lists for millions of dollars in projects they’d like to see funded through a special purpose local option sales tax.

Come November, it’ll be up to voters to decide whether they’ll renew the levy of 1 cent per $1 of sales until 2019.

The argument that Rossville Mayor Teddy Harris makes for renewing the SPLOST is that it lowers property taxes and utility rates — and out-of-town shoppers help pick up part of the tab.

“When SPLOST is in place, anyone who makes a purchase in the county pays the tax,” Harris said. “So nonresidents pay the tax and lessen the tax burden on county residents. If there is no SPLOST, most counties and cities would use property taxes to fund capital investments.”

There’s an opposition movement to the SPLOST, said G. Paul Shaw, who came within 211 votes of beating three-term county Sole Commissioner Bebe Heiskell in the July 2012 Republican primary.

“Bottom line is, the SPLOST is a terrible tax,” Shaw said. “For one, in this county, the SPLOST has not been used for what it was proposed for. This is just a recurrent thing.”

Shaw added, “The people that can least afford an increase are the people in the lower income brackets. They have to pay a higher percentage of their income for this SPLOST.”

Chickamauga City Manager John Culpepper thinks the SPLOST will succeed.

“I think it’s going to pass,” he said. “It’s been passed since 1987.”

“Sales tax is the fairest tax you can have. Everyone pays it,” Culpepper said. “If someone is trying to defeat it just to make our commissioner look bad or a city official look bad, they’ve got the wrong attitude altogether.”

Contact Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6651.

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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