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Hall County officials plan new SPLOST VII meetings
Voters to decide fate of 1-cent tax in March
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SPLOST VII public input meetings

What: Presentation and discussion on what projects to fund if 1 percent sales tax is extended

When: 5 p.m. Thursday and Dec. 11

Where: Hall County Government Center, 2875 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville

Potential projects to be funded if SPLOST VII is approved by voters

• E-911 system upgrades

• Library renovations

• Sewer system projects, including expansion of both the North Hall and South Hall lines

• Public safety vehicle upgrades

• New recreation fields and enhancements to existing parks

• Road resurfacing

Hall County officials have announced they will host two additional public input meetings in an effort to generate interest and support for a new round of special purpose local option sales tax.

A vote on the 1 percent sales tax was postponed this fall after turnout lagged at three public input meetings in June.

Voters will now decide the fate of SPLOST VII, which would last for five years, in March.

Local officials said they hoped the added public meetings, scheduled for Nov. 13 and Dec. 11, will bring some clarity to voters about what projects will be funded.

“They will be helpful in the sense that people want to know that their voice was heard and they were able to give input ...,” said Gainesville Councilman George Wangemann. “To what degree, I’m not sure.”

Residents will also be given the chance to comment on SPLOST VII online at beginning Monday.

In recent years, money from the tax has been spent on everything from road improvements and public works projects to libraries and parks to public safety operations and building construction.

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

The latest revenue projection for SPLOST VII stands at $158 million.

Hall County Commissioner Jeff Stowe said officials would develop contingency plans on what projects to fund and at what cost in the event revenue projections are not met, as was the case with SPLOST VI.

Approved by 62.25 percent of voters in 2009, the initial revenue projection for SPLOST VI was about $240 million over the six-year life of the tax.

But those estimates have now fallen to $152 million.

The fact that SPLOST has not always lived up to the hype may contribute to an anti-tax sentiment in Hall County, something officials acknowledged they must address.

“Certainly, elected officials have to wonder whether this is good timing for another SPLOST,” Wangemann said.

However, officials said SPLOST is a fairer mechanism for funding infrastructure projects because the cost is spread among residents and visitors.

Officials also said that without SPLOST, property taxes are likely to increase.

“I think Hall County fully understands that they are a growth engine,” said Hall County Commission Chairman Richard Mecum. “We’ve got to stay ahead of the curve.”

Local officials said they were encouraged about SPLOST VII’s chances for success this spring after similar initiatives were approved by voters in neighboring Dawson and Habersham counties this week.

Dawson County, of course, benefits from having the North Georgia Premium Outlets in its backyard.

But getting another round of SPLOST passed in politically conservative Hall County appears to be a stiffer test.

Another obstacle to the passage of SPLOST VII is the fact the tax revenue has been used for many things never intended over the years.

Some 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, are two examples.

“I think by putting in a citizen’s oversight committee, hopefully that will ease some of those people’s concerns,” Stowe said.

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