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Jackson County officials aim to put new sales tax on ballot this year
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JEFFERSON — If things go as planned, Jackson County voters will have the opportunity to approve a new special purpose local option sales tax during elections in July.

During a joint meeting Thursday at the Jackson County Courthouse, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners and representatives from affected municipalities met to discuss the possibility of such a vote.

“SPLOST has played an important role in every government in addressing the needs of the community,” said Darrell Hampton, Jackson County manager.

“We have a very narrow window to address this process.”

Among those in attendance were representatives from Arcade, Braselton, Commerce, Hoschton, Jefferson, Maysville, Nicholson, Pendergrass and Talmo.

If the vote is not held in July, voters would not have an opportunity to decide the matter until the November general elections. If a vote isn’t taken until next year, it could affect revenue for planned projects since SPLOST IV expires in June 2011.

According to county officials, there is generally a six-month lag between voter approval and when local governments begin to receive the first distribution of SPLOST payments; therefore, it is imperative for the governments that a vote is taken this year.

Should the SPLOST V referendum be presented to voters and the action fails, the governments have to wait 12 months before the issue can be placed back on the ballot.

“In that case, whatever projects that we have planned for SPLOST would have to be paid for with some other revenue source,” Hampton said.

Funds from SPLOST IV have been used to pay for things such as roads, recreation, public safety facilities and utility infrastructures. Officials expect to bring in around $53 million from SPLOST IV, but expectations for SPLOST V aren’t as high.

“Given the economy and the decline of sales tax (collections), the forecast for SPLOST V isn’t as optimistic,” said John Hulsey, Jackson County finance director.

“With SPLOST V, we think we should be able to collect around $47 million.”

Funds from the SPLOST collections are divided among the county and municipalities to spend on specific projects.

Should the SPLOST V referendum be approved, county officials say that the bulk of Jackson’s money will go toward debt associated with the construction of the Jackson County Jail.

Representatives for each of the municipalities and the county will meet every other Tuesday in March, beginning March 2, to hash out the details of SPLOST V.

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