published Monday, January 7th, 2013

Catoosa County, Ga., SPLOST proposals are taking shape

Former Fort Oglethorpe City Manager Ron Goulart
Former Fort Oglethorpe City Manager Ron Goulart
Ronnie Moore

Officials in Catoosa County, Ga., moved closer Friday to putting together a list of public projects to be funded by a 1 cent sales tax — should voters approve the tax on March 19.

"They've done some revisions. I think they've got it down," Fort Oglethorpe City Manager Ron Goulart said following an afternoon meeting in Ringgold, Ga.

The list of special purpose local option sales tax projects has to be ready in time for the city councils of Fort Oglethorpe and Ringgold to vote on it at their Jan. 14 meetings. The Catoosa County Commission also must approve.

Goulart's main concern was getting funding to help pay down the debt on $11 million the city borrowed for sewer projects.

"I've got to make sure I can pay the debt service off," he said.

Recreation projects and purchase of police and fire vehicles are also on the list, which should be completed soon.

Officials in Chattooga County also are working up a list of projects to present to voters -- probably in March, but maybe in November, county Sole Commissioner Jason Winters said.

"The cities are preparing their project list now," he said, referring to Trion, Summerville, Lyerly and Menlo.

Winters said the 1 cent sales tax generates about $2.4 million annually. He called the revenue "crucial."

"If we lose these funds, we have no choice but to raise property taxes," he said.

"Most residents view it as a very fair tax," Winters said. "This is just continuing a sales tax that's been in place."

Chattooga County is unique in that it's among a handful of Georgia counties in which most of the sales tax revenue goes to the schools, Winters said.

"In Chattooga, the board of education gets 2 cents," he said, of every dollar in sales.

While the county and city governments get special purpose sales tax, schools in Chattooga County get both local option sales tax revenue and education special purpose sales tax revenue, Winters said.

In Walker County, the SPLOST doesn't expire until 2014. So it won't go on the ballot until then, county Sole Commissioner Bebe Heiskell said.

"I get a committee of citizens to put the SPLOST together," she said.

Water, sewer, recreation and equipment for sheriff's deputies and firefighters likely will be on the wish list, she said.

"Walker County has always passed SPLOST," Heiskell said. "I think we'll do it again."

An attempt to pass a special purpose local option tax failed in November 2011 in Whitfield County when 60 percent of voters rejected it.

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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