published Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Walker County, Ga., voters renew 1 cent sales tax

SPLOST VOTE

Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax of 1 cent per $1 of sales until 2019

For..............3,605

Against.......1,713

One penny at a time, shoppers in Walker County, Ga., will pay for new sheriff's patrol cars, a splash park in LaFayette and "Jaws of Life" crash extrication equipment in Rossville.

Those are among a long list of items to be funded through the special purpose local option sales tax, a levy of 1 cent per $1 of sales that voters on Tuesday night approved by a margin of 3,605 in favor and 1,713 opposed.

"We're all excited here," Yes4 SPLOST committee Chairman Virgil Sperry said as the votes were posted at the Walker County Civic Center.

He used the word "landslide" to describe the vote, which was roughly 68 percent for the SPLOST and 32 percent against.

"I don't think that it left a doubt in anybody's mind where the citizens of Walker County placed their confidence," Sperry said. "It was really important, and I'm glad that we won."

The SPLOST, which was first approved in 1987, is now renewed until 2019. It will generate $26 million during its lifetime, county officials estimate, which they said will be equal to 4.2 mills of property tax every year for the next six years. The tax has been in place for 26 years, and its supporters this time around include the county, all of its cities and the Walker County Chamber of Commerce.

The 2013 SPLOST had opponents, including Lookout Mountain resident Mike Chambers.

"It's a very loose-knit opposition from a lot of people who oppose outrageous taxes and how those taxes are spent," he said. "It's similar to the tea party. There is no leadership, there are no meetings."

Sperry said opposition to the SPLOST was mainly from opponents of county Sole Commissioner Bebe Heiskell.

"The election was really more about the commissioner than the SPLOST, at least in terms of the opposition," he said. "They want very badly to make a black mark against the commissioner, and they saw this was a way to do it."

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

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties 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. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township┬╣s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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