Potential SPLOST VII projects
- Road improvements (possible widening of Spout Springs Road)
- Water/sewer infrastructure
- Public safety communication upgrades (possible revamping of emergency 911 center)
- Fire stations, trucks and ambulances
- Sheriff’s office patrol vehicles
- Parks (possible youth athletic complex in Gainesville)
- Government buildings
$130 million. That’s the initial revenue projection for a new five-year round of special purpose local option sales taxes, or SPLOST VII, given to local government officials during a meeting Monday in Gainesville.
Officials met to discuss the next steps in the process leading to a ballot referendum.
Hall County residents will vote on whether to approve SPLOST VII this fall, and the revenue projections will play a huge role in officials’ ability to sell the 1 percent sales tax to the public. \
SPLOST VI was approved by voters in 2009 and is set to expire next year. Initial projections placed revenue for the county and participating cities at about $240 million over the six-year life of the tax. But those estimates have now fallen to $152 million.
The gap between expectations and reality poses a threat to the passage of SPLOST VII, and officials seem to know it.
During the meeting, officials asked for a breakdown of revenues by how much each participating municipality would receive, as well as cost estimates for potential SPLOST projects.
These projections will be unveiled during public input meetings on June 10 in South Hall, June 17 in North Hall and June 19 in Gainesville. Times and specific locations remain to be determined.
Gainesville Councilman George Wangemann said he hoped the public input meetings would give officials better direction moving forward.
He added the public will determine what projects to fund, and that revenue and cost estimates are necessary to identify funding priorities.
Officials said SPLOST is the only viable method of paying for capital expenses, such as buildings, water/sewer infrastructure, road improvements and parks/recreation upgrades.
Alternatives include borrowing money, but that would likely result in tax increases, major service cuts or a combination of the two. And there appears to be no appetite from officials to go this route. In fact, they said, past SPLOST programs may have staved off tax hikes or budget cuts.
Officials called SPLOST a choice between doing nothing and ensuring the economic future of the county.
But because SPLOST revenues can only be used on construction costs, officials must consider what projects will require maintenance and operations funding going forward because this will impact the general fund.
“I think we need to stay focused,” Hall County Commission Chairman Richard Mecum said, alluding to the growth and development expected to come. “The big problem is going to be finance.”