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Officials conclude tax input meetings

County and cities preparing SPLOST VII project wish lists

POSTED: June 20, 2014 1:08 a.m.

While comments on The Times website and Facebook page often reveal opposition to a new round of special purpose local option sales tax, or SPLOST VII, residents at the last of three meetings Thursday in Gainesville to gather public input on what projects to fund said they supported the tax.

Cornelia Martin, a Gainesville resident, said she hoped officials would support renovations of the Senior Life Center.

In addition, “I’d like to see more parks in the county for young people,” she said.

Doris Jones, an Oakwood resident, said her biggest “pet peeves are when roads get bad.”

Jones said she also supports funding for the Senior Life Center.

Gene Marlowe, a youth baseball coach, said the county needs more ball fields and parks to handle the growing interest in local sports leagues.

In referencing the famous line from the movie Field of Dreams — “If you build it, he will come” — Marlowe said, “They’re already here.”

Meanwhile, Joe and Sunny Holloway, residents of Hall County, said they showed up at the meeting unsure whether they would support SPLOST VII.

But after hearing the presentation and speaking with local officials, they were convinced the funding is needed to address capital projects across the county.

The two said they most supported funding for roads and public safety.

The latest revenue projection for SPLOST VII stands at $158 million. Local government officials will likely approve which projects to fund next month.

As previously reported in The Times, Hall County has prepared a “wish list” of projects to fund worth about $223 million. This includes public works, public safety, library and parks projects, among others.

Gainesville also has developed a list that includes about $43.5 million in public works, parks, Senior Life Center and public safety projects.

But what about the other participating cities? What are their wishes and how much funding do they expect to receive?

The answers to these questions are complicated by the fact state law allows Hall County to take up to 20 percent of revenues off the top to fund projects that have a countywide impact, such as public safety.

Still, a few details are trickling out.

Oakwood

Oakwood City Manager Stan Brown provided The Times with a list of projects that include roads, sewer and public safety spending.

Oakwood officials are anticipating receiving between $2.8 million and $3.5 million in SPLOST VII revenue.

“Oakwood’s capital project needs (not “wishes”) in each of these categories exceed the anticipated amount we would expect to see in SPLOST VII revenue,” Brown told The Times in an email. “Specific SPLOST VII projects would be determined and scaled based on the SPLOST VII funds allocated.”

Oakwood will receive about $2.3 million in SPLOST VI revenue.

Flowery Branch

Flowery Branch City Manager Bill Andrew said a SPLOST VII list had been prepared but was shelved when no consensus could be formed among city officials about what projects to support. But the unknowns surrounding revenue projections and just how much the county will take off the top have also played a role.

“Because of that, we’ve had to look at it a little bit differently,” Andrew said, adding Flowery Branch could lose more than $800,000 in funding if the county takes the full 20 percent.

Flowery Branch has budgeted about $1.433 million in capital spending in its proposed 2015 fiscal year budget, and the money would be used to pay for a roundabout in Old Town, as well as stormwater infrastructure improvements across the city.

Flowery Branch will receive about $1.6 million from SPLOST VI.

Lula

Lula City Manager Dennis Bergin said the city remains dependent on SPLOST revenue to fund its capital needs.

Lula is slated to receive about $1.2 million from the current SPLOST VI.

But Bergin said SPLOST VII needs to be approved by voters this fall if Lula is to address road resurfacing, park renovations, as well as water and sewer infrastructure projects.

About $10,000 has been budgeted in the 2015 fiscal year general fund for street repairs and maintenance.

Clermont

Clermont will receive about $600,000 from the current SPLOST VI, which ends next year.

But Mayor James Nix said he is unsure just how much funding the town will receive from SPLOST VII.

Nix said any funding would likely be directed to streets, sidewalks, parks and building renovations.

Braselton

Braselton Town Manager Jennifer Dees said specific projects to be funded by SPLOST VII had not yet been identified because its estimated portion had not yet been calculated.

“However, public works has identified some Hall County portion of town road paving needs and the town citizens in the Hall portion have requested some sidewalk connectivity to our existing network,” she told The Times in an email. “So we know those things would be our priorities.”

Braselton will receive about $20,000 from SPLOST VI.

Buford

Buford will receive about $89,000 from SPLOST VI, and these funds will be directed toward road projects.

“The city of Buford ... SPLOST VII category is currently roads, streets and bridges,” City Manager Bryan Kerlin told The Times in an email. “The city anticipates roadway resurfacing and improvements in the Hall County portions of the city limits of Buford. The city is evaluating other capital project categories as provided by law, which may also be included.”

Gillsville

Gillsville Mayor Larry Poole said SPLOST VII revenues for the town would be directed toward several projects already underway.

“Ours is more of an ongoing list,” he said.

Poole said road construction and resurfacing were the town’s top priorities.

In addition, the town would like to dedicate funds to a downtown streetscape project and renovations of parks.

Poole said it is difficult to estimate just how much funding Gillsville will receive if SPLOST VII is approved.

“We don’t bank on things until we get them,” he added.

However, Poole said road projects would likely need about $200,000 in funding, with another $75,000 directed toward resurfacing.

Gillsville will receive about $152,000 from SPLOST VI.

Hall County residents have just a few days left to submit their comments about what projects SPLOST VII should fund. Comments can be made on the county website.


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