Walker County could be second county in state with transportation sales tax

Walker County
T-SPLOST vote (2012)

Yes: 40.5 percent (4,627 votes)

No: 59.5 percent (6,809 votes)

Source: Georgia secretary of state

 

Walker County, Ga., could become the second county in the state to charge an extra sales tax for transportation projects.

Commissioner Shannon Whitfield met with mayors in Chickamauga, LaFayette, Lookout Mountain and Rossville last week about the possibility of adding the tax, dubbed the transportation special purpose local option sales tax. Shoppers in the county would pay an extra 1 percent on purchases, with the money going to the local governments for projects such as road paving.

Whitfield has not pulled the trigger on the idea yet. But if he does, residents still will have the final say: They will have to approve the added tax in a referendum on the ballot. If he wants to put the item on the November ballot, Whitfield needs to send a proposed referendum to the Georgia secretary of state’s office by Sept. 1, said Jim Buckner, chairman of the county’s board of elections.

LaFayette Mayor Andy Arnold, Lookout Mountain Mayor David Bennett and Rossville Mayor Teddy Harris told the Times Free Press on Friday they are on board with the T-SPLOST. Chickamauga City Manager Michael Haney said he and Mayor Ray Crowder met with Whitfield about the issue last week, and Crowder appeared to be on board, as well.

“If you look at our roads, you can tell our infrastructure has deteriorated over the years,” Haney said. “This is what [T-SPLOST is] for: To take care of our streets and public right of ways without putting such a burden on the residential property owners.”

Said Bennett: “I think it could be a huge. I think it could really benefit the city.”

An added sales tax would bring in a new stream of revenue for a county desperate for cash flow. The county’s total budget usually sits around $22 million. Meanwhile, it faces about $70 million in debt, including an $8.7 million bill to Erlanger Health System. Last month,…

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