Jevin Jensen

Jevin Jensen

Officials from Whitfield County, Dalton, Cohutta, Tunnel Hill and Varnell are scheduled to meet Friday at noon at Dalton City Hall to begin negotiations on how the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) will be divided during the next 10 years, and officials said they believe the negotiations will go smoothly.

The public is invited to the meeting. It will be streamed at us02web.zoom.us/j/84263708572?pwd=bzM3REdvY0dRMVJqWjd6LzZramluQT09#success.

“I am optimistic that all the mayors and I will come to an agreement (at the meeting),” said county Board of Commissioners Chairman Jevin Jensen. “We would then take it back to each city council and the commissioners to vote on, starting next week. We also will discuss the state of partnership between the county and cities as well as future opportunities to improve.”

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

“I don’t see any reason why there should be any problems,” he said.

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 don’t see any reason why we won’t meet that deadline,” said Pennington.

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.

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