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Sales tax vote may be pushed back to spring

POSTED: July 4, 2014 12:38 a.m.

Local government officials are considering delaying a vote on a new round of special purpose local option sales tax from this fall to spring 2015.

“We want to make sure that what we do is fully baked,” Hall County Commissioner Craig Lutz said. “I don’t know that we’re actually going to have the vote in November.”

Officials said they wanted to solicit more public feedback on what projects to fund through the 1 percent sales tax after turnout lagged at three public input meetings last month.

“Obviously, we don’t want to be hasty in all this,” Hall County Administrator Randy Knighton said. “The people who attended certainly provided us with good feedback ... but we want to see if we can broaden the scope.”

Officials were set to approve an agreement on SPLOST VII in the coming weeks, with the Hall County Board of Commissioners scheduled to approve a resolution July 24 that would officially put the tax on the ballot this fall.

But it now appears those plans are on hold.

Knighton said a formal decision about whether to delay the vote would be made sometime in the next two weeks.

Officials are still eyeing a July 1, 2015, date for the tax to take effect since the current SPLOST VI expires next year.

The latest revenue projection for SPLOST VII, which would last five years, stands at $158 million.

“I would rather have some more input than what we have gotten,” Commissioner Scott Gibbs said, adding that holding two or three additional meetings this fall could generate more response from the public.

Gainesville City Manager Kip Padgett also said he would support postponing the vote.

But while a delay might help officials garner more feedback and clarify which capital projects to fund through the tax, there are mixed opinions about whether holding the vote next spring is the best course of action.

“I don’t know (if) what the county and cities are doing is conducive for passing SPLOST,” Lutz said. “But I certainly do believe that it seems like we’re trying to rush through this process.”

Gainesville Councilman George Wangemann said holding the vote next spring would likely mean lower turnout at the polls and, perhaps, less opposition to the tax.

“That could be a factor in helping (SPLOST) get passed,” he said. “I just really don’t think that SPLOST has a chance this fall.”


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