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SPLOST pushes projects forward
Law mandates Hall publish yearly updates on SPLOST
1937 Courthouse and Annex renovations, relocate administrative offices. SPLOST VI: $17 million budgeted, $305,000 spent at 2010 fiscal year end. What's proposed: Functionally rehabilitate 1937 Courthouse and restore historic state court. The Courthouse Annex - currently occupied by Hall County administrative offices - will be vacated in order to accommodate future growth by the courts. Administrative offices will be relocated from the Courthouse Annex. - photo by Times file photo

More than a year after voters approved SPLOST VI, collections are slow but steady, and a number of projects are underway.

Hall County provided an annual update of special purpose local option sales tax projects in an advertisement in The Times this week. Counties and cities are required by state law to publicize information about the 1-cent sales tax each year during the collection period.

When the fiscal year ended June 30, Hall County had spent $18 million from SPLOST VI, which is projected to collect $240 million by 2015.

So far, the county has spent SPLOST dollars on a few key projects, including the North Hall park, Glades Reservoir and the Hall County Animal Shelter.

Of the $6 million budgeted for the Glades Reservoir, $1.4 million was spent in 2010 on the costs associated with getting a federal permit for the project.

The county spent $2.7 million of the $5 million budget for the North Hall Park. The majority of that money was used to purchase the Nopone Road property where the park will be built.

A little more than $462,000 was spent to repay loans used to build the Hall County Animal Shelter. The shelter was allotted $2.5 million in SPLOST VI.

County Purchasing Manager Tim Sims said the commission put the animal shelter, which is now open, on the fast track and was built using borrowed funds before the money for it was collected from sales taxes.

Most projects are scheduled over the six-year collection period so they can be paid for as money comes in.

"I think everyone does a really good job of planning it out and having the cash flow there when projects are due to be started," Sims said.

Because of the economy, SPLOST dollars are coming in more slowly than the county projected.

"They're probably off about 15 percent from what we expected," Sims said. "The first couple of months we didn't have a lot of money to work with ... We're thankful that they've stabilized and are not dropping anymore."

Sims said it is too early for the county to plan what to do if collections remain significantly under budget.
"If the economy picks up and goes gang busters like it has in the past, we could very well make that $240 million by year six," Sims said.

There are a few outstanding projects left over from SPLOST IV and SPLOST V.

Work on Skelton Road - approved in 1998 under SPLOST IV, is on hold for the Georgia Department of Transportation, Sims said.

"The state is the main reason that's taken so long to come to fruition," Sims said.

Fire Station 16, a new station approved in 2004 under SPLOST V, is also stalled. County officials were wary of taking on more employees during lean times.

"With the downturn of the economy, we just can't afford to add the operating expenses into the budget," Sims said.


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