Government and school system officials in Whitfield County had a pleasant surprise when they received their September sales tax payments from the Georgia Department of Revenue. All told, local governments and school systems received some $3 million in revenue they weren't expecting.
"Whitfield County received $817,643.18 of unanticipated LOST (Local Option Sales Tax) proceeds, in addition to regular August collections of $906,403.37," said Whitfield County Finance Director James Garvin.
In addition, the county received some $1.3 million in 2015 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) money. County Board of Commissioners Chairman Lynn Laughter said that under the terms of the SPLOST agreement signed by the county and the cities, that money will be split evenly between the county and the city of Dalton and will go into the county's general fund.
Laughter said because the county only recently received that money, commissioners have not decided what they will do with it.
Both the LOST and the SPLOST are 1% taxes collected on most goods sold in the county. The LOST is perpetual and can fund local government operations. The SPLOST is approved by voters for a specified time and can only be used for certain types of projects. The Department of Revenue collects both taxes and remits them to government entities.
Local officials say the Department of Revenue told them that an unidentified firm with a presence across the state was using software that sent sales tax revenue that should have been marked for local governments to the state, which collects its own 4% sales tax. An audit by the department found the problem occurred from early 2015 through January 2018.
The city of Dalton reported it received $432,111 in LOST money that it wasn't expecting in addition to its share of the SPLOST money.
Dalton Chief Financial Officer Cindy Jackson said the LOST money will be used to cover any budget shortfalls caused by unexpected expenses related to the new coronavirus (COVID-19), and City Council members have not determined how the SPLOST money will be used.
Whitfield County Schools reported it received an additional $850,000 in Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST) money.
"We will use the money to continue completing projects on our facility needs list," said Superintendent Judy Gilreath. "We complete a needs assessment every year and always have more needs than revenue so this money will be put to a good use."
Dalton Public Schools reported receiving an additional $452,000 in ESPLOST money. Dalton Public Schools Chief of Staff Pat Holloway said that money will be used for the ESPLOST priorities list, which includes new technology and upgrades and repairs at various buildings.
An ESPLOST is approved by voters for a specified time and can only be used for construction and certain other projects.
Murray County Manager/Finance Director Tommy Parker reported that Murray County received $409,620 in LOST money, "which was about what we expected." Murray County Schools did not receive any unexpected money.
The Associated Press reported it cost the state some $240 million to remit the sales tax revenues it incorrectly received to local governments and school systems across the state.