While several areas took hits, county commissioners maintained their totals for county sewer projects in the West Chickamauga, Peavine and Ringgold basins.
On March 19 voters will decide whether to continue SPLOST (special-purpose local-option sales tax) for another five years. The penny-on-a-dollar tax is expected to generate about $60 million to pay for a host of proposed projects.
In order for this budget to go on the ballot, all three government entities must come to an intergovernmental agreement no later than Jan. 15. This is required to meet the 60-day election notice.
Board of Commissioners chairman Keith Greene said, “It is important to remember that we are not generating a new tax, but merely continuing one that has been in place. We would need to double our millage rates to make up for SPLOST should we lose those funds.” Catoosa County currently has the seventh lowest millage (property tax) rate in the state, officials said.
Prior to the meeting, Catoosa County, Ringgold and Fort Oglethorpe had culled their proposed projects to $66 million, according to county manager Mike Helton said. In November they had a wish list totaling more than $100 million.
The current SPLOST, which began in 2009 after getting the go-ahead from voters, will end in 2014. By then it will have generated about $53 million.
Of the approximate $60 million from the new SPLOST, $6,089,600 will go for Fort Oglethorpe projects and $2,468,000 will go for Ringgold projects. The remainder, about $51 million, will go for county projects.
The proposed list of projects does not include $6 million for a jail/detention center expansion requested by sheriff Gary Sisk. That project was initially on the wish list but has been cut.
Helton said Sisk is looking for a commitment for a “plan B” to ensure that the expansion takes place, with other funding. This could be in the form of a bond issue, the county manager said. According to the newly-installed sheriff, “I just don't want to see us get into a situation where I am having to out-house inmates and pay those fees to do so.”
Sisk said he is currently conducting study with the Georgia Sheriff's Association as to Catoosa's needs. He said he has spoken to judge Ralph Van Pelt about the possibility of using ankle bracelets to monitor lesser offenders and thereby reduce the jail population. Current jail population is staying right at 90 percent, per Sisk.
Just as in 2009, sewers remain a primary concern for the new SPLOST. Between the Fort Oglethorpe and Ringgold area basins, officials currently have $10.6 million penciled in, compared to more than $15.7 million in 2009.
Catoosa Utility is looking at an allocation of $3.5 million for updating and replacing waterlines to meet hydrant needs and public safety guidelines.
The recreation program, which includes Boynton, county recreation, Fort Oglethorpe and Ringgold Youth Athletic Association, is currently set for $2,615,000 in funds.
In public safety, the county fire department is slated for $3.7 million in fire and rescue equipment and $2.5 million in building upgrades.
The non-funded request for the jail expansion withstanding, newly sworn-in sheriff Sisk is looking at receiving $2.1 million for 68 new patrol cars (seven new cars were previously approved at the Dec. 18 commissioners’ meeting), $255,830 for a radio cache and $658,569 for 911 center upgrades.
County roads and bridges were approved for $9,210,000 in upgrades, while county vehicles and equipment are tagged for $2,264,500 in expenditures.
Repair and upgrades to county buildings and grounds received an allotment of $810,000.
Storm water expenditures are down by over 50 percent in the 2014 SPLOST, coming in at a proposed $4.5 million. $5.9 million is set to go towards debt retirement.