The Oct. 31 deadline for ratifying a new Service Delivery Agreement (SDA) between the city of Dalton and Whitfield County is fast approaching, and the leaders of the city of Dalton hope that the county's leadership will not delay in our shared duty to get the SDA negotiated and settled. To that end, we have invited Whitfield County and the other municipalities to meet with us on Oct. 17 to reach a mediated agreement. The county has agreed with Dalton on a particular mediator who has agreed to meet that day and so we hope, for the sake of our community, that the county will meet with us on that day. There's too much at stake to delay further.

We were warned by leaders of other city governments that when they attempted to renegotiate for a fairer SDA with their county partners, the experience was a negative one. We were warned that the county would delay, would refuse to negotiate, would try to confuse the issue with discussion of the unrelated Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) agreement and would attempt to sway public opinion through the news media. To our frustration and surprise, that's been our experience thus far as well. The city of Dalton has been trying for more than a year at this point to come to the table with Whitfield County, but on two separate occasions in 2018 they refused to negotiate and have recently signaled another refusal to meet in 2019. Now, with time running out, they want to extend the existing agreement which is inequitable for the city's taxpayers.

We believe that renegotiating the SDS will result in lower taxes for residents and business owners in the city of Dalton. An analysis performed by the legal firm retained to represent the city of Dalton in these negotiations has found that city of Dalton taxpayers are paying approximately $4 million (or about 3.3 mills) more annually in county property taxes for services that aren't being delivered in the city. If your home is assessed at $200,000, that's about $238 out of your pocket each year. If you own a business assessed at $107 million, that's about $141,000 out of your budget. Reducing the property tax burden on our citizens is vital from both a tax equity and fairness standpoint, as well as an economic development perspective.

It's been the preference of the city's leaders and the negotiating team retained by the city to not to try to handle negotiations in the media. That is still our preference. The differences between the city's position on the SDS and Whitfield County are few, and we expect they can be worked out quickly with the help of the mediator. On behalf of the entire community, we look forward to discussing this important matter with Whitfield County, the city of Tunnel Hill, the town of Cohutta and the city of Varnell on Oct. 17 and we look forward to a new, fairer SDA.

Jason Parker is the Dalton city administrator.

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