Whitfield County, cities to start discussions on tax agreement

·3 min read

Jul. 14—Officials from Whitfield County, Dalton, Cohutta, Tunnel Hill and Varnell are tentatively scheduled to meet Monday, Aug. 1, at the Dalton Convention Center to begin negotiations on how the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) will be divided during the next 10 years.

County Board of Commissioners Chairman Jevin Jensen said some mayors have been out of town or on vacation, so he is waiting to confirm the day and time.

Jensen sent a letter inviting the local cities to begin negotiations on June 24. The 60 days set by state law to conclude the negotiations began when the letter was sent.

The LOST agreement determines how revenues from that tax are divided among local governments. The LOST, which had to be initially approved by voters, is a 1% tax on most goods sold in a county that is used by local governments to fund operations. It is different from the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), which can only be used for specific capital projects approved by voters and cannot be used for operations.

Under state law, the LOST must be negotiated every 10 years after the results of the national census are in. If the governments can't reach an agreement, the process will go to nonbinding arbitration. If they still can't reach an agreement, the tax will expire. If that happened, voters would have to approve a new LOST.

"I feel confident we will meet our deadlines this year without the need for outside attorneys or judge-led mediators, creating a win-win for the whole community for the next 10 years," said Jensen.

"I feel good, too" said Dalton Mayor David Pennington.

Pennington said that City Administrator Andrew Parker and County Administrator Robert Sivick have already been working on many of the details.

State law does not mandate when local governments must begin their LOST negotiations but it does require them to have an agreement by Dec. 31.

According to data provided by Dalton and Whitfield County, in 2021 the Whitfield County LOST brought in $21.1 million, with Dalton receiving $7.6 million and Whitfield County about $13 million with the smaller cities getting the rest.

Dalton's share of the LOST is now 35.91%. The county's is 60.457%. When the LOST agreement was last negotiated in 2012, the agreement called for Dalton to receive 32%, with the share rising over time to its current rate, and for the county to receive 64.851%, with that share declining over time to the current rate.

At their Monday meeting, members of the county Board of Commissioners voted 3-0 to:

—Purchase a mobile restroom trailer from AMS Global of De Queen, Arkansas, for $33,986. The county plans to renovate six fire stations built in the 1970s during the next two to three years. The trailer — which has two units that each have a shower, toilet, sink and mirrors — will be moved from station to station for firefighters to use during the renovations. Jensen said after the renovations are complete the county could sell the trailer or use it at the fire department's training facility, which has no restroom. The trailer will be purchased with part of the county's share of the four-year, $66 million 2020 SPLOST.

—Accept a $298,095 bid from Bartow Paving of Cartersville to realign the intersection of McGaughey Chapel Road and Old Prater Road to improve sight lines and safety for vehicles crossing the intersection.

—Accept a $12,000 bid from Southeastern Engineering of Marietta for engineering work for a planned repair of substandard roads in the Creeks Edge subdivision.

Commissioner Barry Robbins was absent from the meeting, and Jensen typically votes only if there is a tie.