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Lula city manager says tax agreement in the works
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Hall County plans to present to the cities by Oct. 15 an intergovernmental agreement concerning a new five-year round of special purpose local option sales tax money, Lula City Manager Dennis Bergin said Monday night.

The agreement could be presented “hopefully within the next couple of weeks,” Bergin told the council.

And then the county would establish “tier two” projects at an estimated amount of $21 million, or a layer of projects with countywide benefit.

“That money comes off the top,” Bergin said.

The latest projection for SPLOST VII is $158 million.

“That money is divided by distribution (according to) population in the 2010 census,” Bergin said. “The county lost population percentage, so consequently, they would lose about $10 million.

“Some would say the tier two projects would help them offset that loss in population distribution.”

Bergin added, “At the end of the day, we can’t do any more than we’re doing right now until we understand what they’re going to take off the top, and that’s the most frustrating thing for all of us.”

Richard Mecum, reached later by phone, wasn’t familiar with Hall getting an agreement to the cities by Oct. 15.

“There’s several issues yet to come down that we may not know anything about until later this year, so right now, it’s a little premature to be saying we’re going to be doing any IGAs with anybody,” Mecum said.

Concerning tier two, reducing the percentage amount for cities would especially hit smaller communities hard, “and so, we’re conscious of that, so we’re cautious about what we’re doing and how we do it,” he said.

Concerns that Hall County voters will not approve a new SPLOST, which is used to pay for capital needs, have led local government officials to begin preparing backup plans to deal with the potential loss of revenue.

Last week, Bergin said he hoped by November to “have a game plan that will be in place that you can consider for adoption.”

“We are taking the position, based on conversations with our finance committee, that there will not be a future SPLOST,” he told City Council.

Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan has said the city depends on SPLOST revenue for major road and stormwater projects it has in the pipeline.

Officials still plan to hold a referendum on renewing the 1 percent sales tax in March.

Kit Dunlap, president and CEO of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, said a couple of months would be all the chamber would need to promote a SPLOST, if it’s a worthy ballot item.

“The chamber will support it only if we know what it is,” she said. “Right now, we’re at a standstill and the business community is saying ‘what are (officials) going to do?’”

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