DALTON, Ga. — One of the best ways to improve a community and add to the services provided by a government is through the passage of a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), according to small businessman Chris Shiflett.
Shiflett was one of 10 people and one alternate unanimously named by the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners on Monday night to the new SPLOST advisory committee that will work with elected officials on a possible 2020 SPLOST. Shiflett was one of seven people accused by Whitfield County Board of Commissioners Chairman Lynn Laughter in a May text message to other commissioners of "lying" about a SPLOST on the March ballot that was defeated, and whom Laughter said "should not be on any committee." Shiflett was a participant in a local group that opposed the proposed 1%, six-year, $100 million SPLOST on the March ballot. A SPLOST is a 1% tax applied to most items sold in a specified area.
“The only reason I was against the last SPLOST was the duration was too long and I felt there was nothing in there that addressed economic development as far as more housing opportunities,” said Shiflett. “We have had truly impactful SPLOST projects in the past and I have supported those. I am not on this committee in any way to hinder the passage of the next SPLOST.”
“The reason I wanted to be on the committee to begin with is I have always been a pro-SPLOST person as a funding mechanism,” Shiflett said. “I want a SPLOST to pass. I just want it to be shorter term and truly ‘special-purpose’ projects and not things that should be in a regular budget.”
Four of the county commissioners each named two members from their district to the 16-member advisory committee, and Laughter named two county-wide representatives. Michael E. Kelley II was named as an alternate.
Representing the county on the advisory committee are David Hastey and Bob Huskey (selected by Commissioner Barry Robbins); Donna Ivester and Grant Mantooth (selected by Commissioner Harold Brooker); Todd Nelson and Bart Rich (selected by Commissioner Roger Crossen); Shiflett and Heath Ewton (selected by Commissioner Greg Jones); and Pam Partain and Brad Ramsey, who were selected by Laughter.
Jones said he is pleased with his picks and with the committee as a whole.
“I think they will do a good job,” he said. “They will have a diverse background of experiences. I want to be hands off and let the committee do their work. The only thing I wanted was to have veto power that if the maintenance and operations budget would be too expensive. That is my plan, but I am just one of five.”
The city of Dalton chose Steve Card, David Pennington IV and Allison Whittle as its representatives, with Tiger Wagner as an alternate. Varnell chose Paul Wilson, while Cohutta’s Town Council is expected to approve Nicholas Conner Tuesday night, and Tunnel Hill is expected to select William "Butch" Middleton to the committee, also Tuesday night.
The committee will hold its first meeting on Thursday at 6 p.m. in the fifth floor conference room of the Wells Fargo building at 201 S. Hamilton St. in Dalton. Laughter said she will chair the first meeting until the committee elects its own leaders. The committee will hear proposals and make recommendations for the next SPLOST, which could be on the ballot in May or November of next year. But the commissioners will have the final say.
“I was real pleased (with the committee selections),” Laughter said. “We’ve never done it before, so what I am looking for — and you might get a different answer from any of the other commissioners or city council members or mayors — but the idea is for the county and the cities and groups to present their projects for the SPLOST and for the committee to vet the projects. They will talk about if this is something the community would support or not. The commissioners retain the right to be the final say.”