Officials from Stephens County, as well as Toccoa, Martin, and Avalon were all on hand Monday at the historic Stephens County Courthouse in downtown Toccoa for the third in a series of joint meetings on SPLOST VI.
At the meeting, Toccoa City Manager Mike Jackson presented the city’s list of proposed SPLOST VI projects.
Jackson said that list assumes that the city would continue to receive about 35 percent of revenues under SPLOST VI, as the city has under the current SPLOST.
“To leave the split of the SPLOST as is (that) is the city’s position,” said Jackson.
City Commissioner Terry Carter echoed that, saying that if the approximate 65-35 split is good enough for the Local Option Sales Tax, which was negotiated last year, it should be good enough for SPLOST.
Under Toccoa’s proposed split, the city would receive just under $7.5 million of the total $21.2 million projection for a six-year SPLOST. Topping the city’s proposed project are water and sewer projects, road resurfacing, vehicle replacements.
Jackson said he feels the city’s list of projects is very legitimate.
“These are projects that, from the city’s standpoint, are just as important to the city as the county’s (list of projects) is to the county,” he added.
Stephens County is holding firm to its stance that it receive 75 percent of SPLOST VI revenues, which would come out to nearly $16 million of a $21.2 million projection.
County Commissioner Dean Scarborough said since SPLOST is designed as a mechanism to relieve property tax burden, the county’s current tight budget situation means it needs the money more than the city.
“You were able to lower your property tax last year, which shows that there was not as great a need for property tax, which really gives credence to what I am saying,” said Scarborough to Toccoa officials. “We depend on property tax. The bill was designed to provide relief for property tax, so therefore that is what the main objective is. We are trying our best to keep the property tax down.”
Scarborough also said that the county is willing to move forward without an intergovernmental agreement between the county and the city, which would limit SPLOST VI to five years.
In that five-year scenario, the county would receive the first 20 percent of SPLOST VI collections for Tier II projects, which are anything like roads and bridges that are owned by the county. After that, the remaining 80 percent of the five-year SPLOST collections would be divided between the county and the municipalities based on population.
Carter said he is concerned that if the city and county cannot reach an agreement, that city voters might be inclined to not support SPLOST. Scarborough countered that city residents still pay county taxes and approving SPLOST would help keep that burden as low as possible.
All of the sides will come back together for another SPLOST VI meeting next Tuesday.
Officials are working to complete a SPLOST VI resolution by the later part of next month in order to put it before voters this November.