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Hall County officials finalizing SPLOST project list
Possible sales tax could raise more than $150 million
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Hall County officials are finalizing a category list for projects to be funded by a new five-year round of special purpose local option sales tax. They hope to present that list to voters during public input meetings later this fall.

The latest development comes as county and municipal officials have begun preparing for the possibility that SPLOST VII will not be approved by voters.

Officials postponed a vote on the 1 percent sale tax after turnout lagged at three public input meetings in June.

A vote on SPLOST VII is now scheduled for March.

Previous money from the tax has been spent on items ranging from road improvements and public works projects, libraries, parks, public safety operations and building construction.

SPLOST money cannot, however, be spent on maintenance and operations costs, meaning these expenses fall on the general fund and other revenue streams in the budget.

Hall County’s initial “wish list” includes more than $200 million worth of capital projects.

But the new list being prepared will have to pare down that figure because the latest revenue projection stands at just $158 million.

Road improvements top the list, with about $87 million in repairs, upgrades and new construction earmarked for potential funding.

Another $29 million has been targeted for sewer system projects, including expansion of both the North Hall and South Hall lines.

About $5 million has been identified for park renovations, $4 million for building renovations and $3.5 million to renovate the Gainesville library branch and purchase 60,000 books.

An additional $12 million has been identified to upgrade the E-911 emergency call system.

County officials said they would likely sign an intergovernmental agreement with participating cities to define what projects will be supported by SPLOST VII.

The county is allowed to take up to 20 percent of total collections for Level 2 projects, which have a countywide benefit, such as road improvements or water and sewer infrastructure.

The remaining revenue would then be distributed between the county and participating cities based on population.

Officials said there would be some flexibility in what projects SPLOST will fund because, for example, it is unknown what road repairs might be needed three or four years out.

However, the tax revenue has been used for many items never intended over the years, which accounts for one of the primary criticisms of SPLOST.

Examples include costs related to the Glades Reservoir, as well as funding for the purchase of a new firetruck to replace one involved in an accident that injured three firefighters in July.