County eyes SPLOST projects

County eyes SPLOST projects

August 7th, 2013 by Rachel Sauls-Wright in Local Regional News

It's SPLOST season in Walker County.

Last week, Sole Commissioner Bebe Heiskell sat down with representatives from the all of the county's municipalities except Fort Oglethorpe to begin drafting an intergovernmental agreement that will outline the SPLOST process. That agreement will detail the projects slated for special purpose local option sales tax funding and the way it will be split between the county and its municipalities over the next five years if the public votes in November to enact SPLOST for another term.

"The first order of business is to put together a project list," Walker County Attorney Don Oliver said. "Let's get the project list together in fairly short order with an estimate of the dollar amount allocated for each project with SPLOST proceeds."

Project lists from the county and cities of Chickamauga, LaFayette, Lookout Mountain, Ga., and Rossville are expected to be completed and submitted to the county's election commission by the end of August, said Heiskell.

Unlike years past, new regulations require SPLOST project lists and estimates to be very specific, she added.

"This is the most specific SPLOST I've ever seen," Heiskell said. "It's all brand new, down to exactly how much you're going to spend. This is going to be very, very scary in a way because you've got to raise the money somewhere else [if the bid for a project comes in higher than the amount of SPLOST funds allotted]."

Potential projects

At this point, Heiskell said she isn't ready to release the county's SPLOST project list but did say the projects she is considering most are ones that came up during her public meetings this spring.

"We've got to do some emergency shelters and things like that," she said. "The only way we can do it is with SPLOST money. There are a lot of people who went through that tornado who realized they could've been dead and want some kind of protection."

To help put together the final list of SPLOST projects, Heiskell said she will appoint a committee of 10-15 people including representatives from each of the county's municipalities. That committee will be formed in the coming weeks so the list can be submitted to the county's election commission by the end of August.

Opposition

For the first time, Heiskell said she is facing an organized opposition to SPLOST, which is a concern as the referendum in November draws closer.

"This is the sixth SPLOST we've had, and they've all passed with flying colors," she said. "I've done everything I can not to raise taxes. It's just common sense in Walker County. Most people would rather pay a penny [of SPLOST] than have property tax increases."

According to Heiskell, the opposition is largely being led by her political opponents and their reasons for opposing SPLOST aren't valid.

"Some people are actually working hard to keep it from passing, and their reason is not good," she said. "They don't have a legitimate reason to do it."