Steven Henry

Catoosa County Commission Chairman Steven Henry speaks about the planned transportation sales tax during the Nov. 6 Board of Commissioner’s meeting. / Adam Cook

Catoosa County officials will present a 1-percent transportation sales tax referendum, designed to pay for road projects, to voters in a special March election.

The TSPLOST (Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) as it’s called, is essentially an extra tax charged when residents and others make purchases in the county.

The money collected is then used to cover the cost of future transportation projects instead of having to commit part of the county’s budget to the work.

The tax will have to be placed on a referendum and approved by voters next year.

Walker County voters approved the same type of tax last fall, while voters in Dade County voted “no” on such referendums last fall and in May of this year.

Catoosa County commissioners, along with officials from the cities of Ringgold and Fort Oglethorpe, held an intergovernmental work session and meeting Monday, Nov. 5 to discuss the matter.

During the meeting, County Manager Alisha Vaughn explained the county’s desire to have the tax on referendum in March, and also proposed a 70-20-10 split of the profits from the tax between the county, and the cities of Fort Oglethorpe and Ringgold, respectively.

Ringgold City Council member Sara Clark stated in the meeting that she would be reluctant to pitch the tax to voters without having the numbers finalized beforehand.

For now, the three sides will continue to prioritize roads and projects, with the plan to hopefully have some kind of split agreement in place before the end of the year.

Late last year and on into January, the three had trouble deciding on a three-way split of the SPLOST tax.

The boards ultimately worked out a $39-$13.5-$7.5 (Catoosa County/Fort Oglethorpe/Ringgold) million split of the projected $60 million profit from the tax over the life of its five-year cycle.

During Tuesday night’s (Nov. 6) Board of Commissioner’s meeting, resident Phyllis Williams claimed the public wasn’t giving much notice about Monday’s (Nov. 5) intergovernmental meeting. She also vowed to dedicate her time to monitoring details of the tax if it’s approved.

“These roads didn’t get this way over night,” Williams said. “If this TSPLOST is voted in and we bring in like $3 million a year, y’all can’t just spend it wherever you want. This is going to be a brand new tax and y’all need to get me a bed down here because when it starts coming in, we’re going to keep up with every penny.”

After the night’s agenda was addressed, Commissioner Ray Johnson and Chairman Steven Henry pointed out that the public is always invited to meetings and work sessions.

“This TSPLOST is for the roads and we can’t use it for anything but the roads,” Johnson affirmed. “There will be some meetings that we’ll be having before long to explain more about it. It is coming. … It’s not being hidden from nobody.”

“Every meeting we’ve had about the TSPLOST has been an open meeting that everybody has been invited to,” Henry added. “We don’t do anything closed doors. Everything’s open.”

Adam Cook is a general assignment reporter and covers the Walker-Catoosa County area. He has been a reporter since 2009. He can be reached at The Catoosa County News office at 706-935-2621 and by email at acook@npco.com.