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Hall board OKs SPLOST settlement terms
Gainesville to receive $5.3M in 9 payments over 48 months
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The Hall County Board of Commissioners approved settlement terms Thursday night in a lawsuit with the city of Gainesville over special purpose local option sales tax.

Gainesville sued Hall in February for about $5.3 million, asserting the county breached a 2008 agreement to pay the city accelerated special purpose local option sales tax payments for the first four years of a six-year period, with the city paying back any excess funds during the last two years.

County Attorney Bill Blalock said he had worked out an agreement with Gainesville, but had not yet drafted the settlement agreement documents, which is supposed to be filed with the Superior Court by 3 p.m. today. The Gainesville City Council hasn’t voted in public on any settlement terms, which is required under the Open Meetings Act.

The county agreed Thursday night to pay the city nine payments of $593,750, which would equal 48 months of payments and about $5.3 million. The county will immediately start billing the city for the excess funds for the next 24 months in the amount of $250,692 a month. It has the option of deducting the first three months that the city owes it out of the $5.3 million lump sum payment.

The county stopped the 48 scheduled payments at 39 because the city had already received about 14.79 percent of the total SPLOST VI revenues, which came in lower than originally expected.

The county is also charging Gainesville a reallocation fee of 2.25 percent. That means when the city has completely paid back the county, it will have paid about $6 million.

SPLOST VI started in 2009 and runs until July 2015. It was originally projected to collect about $240 million, but the economic downturn caused the projection to decline in 2011 to $162 million and go down again in March to $157 million. Hall County has now estimated it will total between $152 million and $155 million.

Board Chairman Richard Mecum said he was not pleased or displeased by the settlement.

“The biggest thing, though, is that the city and the county both will come of this situation OK,” Mecum said.

The effective date may be Sept. 1, Mecum said.

Calls to Gainesville City Manager Kip Padgett weren’t successful. Padgett has been out of town dealing with his child’s surgery.

The city will end up getting about $28 million. If the estimate had stayed at $240 million, the city would have been owed about $35.5 million.

The city wanted accelerated payment in 2008 because it was building an about $20 million public safety complex, and didn’t want a lot of expense on debt service.

Mecum said he was unaware of any extension of the date the judge determined.

Also, commissioners approved Jim Walters’ request to use his barn for social gatherings, such as farm weddings. No one opposed the request, and there were few questions from the commissioners about it. Under a new “agri-entertainment” law, all event venues in unincorporated Hall that charge a fee for their use must have a business license, a certificate of occupancy and be approved by the commission.