June 26, 2013

Report says Dalton among least expensive places to live

Charles Oliver

— For the second time in four months, a national report has placed Dalton among the least expensive places to live in America.

The website Wall Street Cheat Sheet (wallstcheatsheet.com) listed Dalton first among the eight least expensive places to live in the United States based on data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics that shows the average price of commonly purchased goods and services in Dalton is 15.3 percent below the national average.

It also cites the website Sperling’s BestPlaces (www.bestplaces.net), which ranks cities and counties nationally, where Dalton scored a 92.8 on the cost-of-living index compared to a national average of 100. Places with a score of less than 100 are cheaper than the national average; those with a score of greater than 100 are more expensive.

Larry Johnson, associate professor of economics and interim dean of the School of Business at Dalton State College, said he wasn’t surprised by the report.

“This whole region has a lower cost of living than the national average, usually around 8 to 10 percent,” he said. “A lot of that has to do with housing costs.”

In fact, the Wall Street Cheat Sheet singled out the low cost of housing in Dalton.

“Median home cost is just 46 percent (of) the national average, although homes are depreciating in the region. Property tax is well below the national average,” it reported.

In February, the Council for Community and Economic Research, a nonprofit research organization, found that the metro Dalton area, which includes Whitfield and Murray counties, had a cost of living well below the national average. The council’s cost of living index considered six components: housing, utilities, grocery items, transportation, health care and miscellaneous goods and services. The Dalton metro area scored a 91.9, 8 points below the average of the 307 metro areas surveyed by the group.

Some Dalton residents said Tuesday they were surprised that Dalton is a less expensive place to live than other parts of the country.

“Every time I look it seems prices are going up. It doesn’t seem cheap to me,” said Jack Taylor.

Johnson said Dalton is a significantly less expensive place to live but the costs of living are rising everywhere.

“We are in a remarkably low-inflation environment, but the items that low-income people spend the most on — food, fuel, rent — are the most volatile, and for them the cost of living is going up,” he said.

Dalton Mayor David Pennington said the cost of living is relatively low in small towns across the South.

“What we can brag on is what you get for your money here. You get far more for your money here than you do in those other cities. We have the best recreation department in Georgia. You get limb pickup, a lot of things that other cities don’t provide or have stopped providing,” Pennington said.