Community News Walker County passes increase in sales tax to fund road improvement projects

Community News Walker County passes increase in sales tax to fund road improvement projects

November 15th, 2017 by Rosana Hughes in Community North Georgia

Shannon Whitfield

Photo by Robin Rudd /Times Free Press.

By the numbers

› T-SPLOST lifetime: April 1, 2018, through March 31, 2023

› Revenue: $3 million per year

› Walker County: 75 percent ($2.25 million)

› LaFayette: 11.67 percent ($350,100)

› Rossville: 6.3 percent ($189,000)

› Chickamauga: 3.77 percent ($113,000)

› Lookout Mountain: 2.89 percent ($86,100)

› Fort Oglethorpe: 0.39 percent ($11,700)

Walker County residents' vote to implement a 1 percent increase in sales tax to fund road improvement projects means a five-year increase will go into effect April 1.

The timing is unfortunate for Walker residents, whose tax bills just went up by 50-70 percent to help dig the county out of its $70 million debt and repay the additional $10 million it owes Erlanger.

"This is very exciting to have this much support," Commissioner Shannon Whitfield said. "I think it's a great testimonial that the citizens of Walker County are ready to move forward and they're ready to have positive change and get their roads and bridges fixed."

There isn't a plan in place to fund road projects in Walker County other than last week's tax vote. This is due to tightened budgets to help pay off the county's debts.

The T-SPLOST will bring in about $3 million per year, Whitfield said, with the county keeping $2.25 million and its cities splitting the rest.

Last Monday night, before the Tuesday vote, Whitfield took to Facebook Live to address residents' questions regarding the sales tax. He explained the tax would go up from 7 to 8 percent, which would still be lower than Chattanooga's 9.75 percent.

The Georgia Department of Transportation gives cities and counties a certain amount of money for road improvement projects through a grant. However, local government has to match 30 percent of that money. Additionally, if the money isn't spent within three years, it has to be returned to the state.

The special purpose tax increase will give the county and its cities enough money to match the 30 percent and still have some left over.

Some projects the new money might go to include 10 road resurfacing projects, totaling about $1.6 million. Two of those projects cost more than $300,000. One of those is a nearly 3-mile stretch of Peavine Road between the county line and Kay Conley Road. The other is a 2.5-mile section of Dry Valley Road between Happy Valley Road and W. Schmitt Road.

Dade County residents voted against the T-SPLOST.

After voters shot down the tax increase, Dade County Executive Ted Rumley said the issue would be "back on the ballot in the real election. We'll have a lot more people [turning out] to vote."

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