By Tia Lynn Ivey
The Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) further discussed how to go about pursuing the next SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales) referendum and introducing a new sales tax called TSPLOST (Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax), which will be placed on the ballot sometime next year. The BOC will propose the next SPLOST to be an estimated $21 million, down about $5 million from the current $26 million SPLOST.
During the last work session on Tuesday, Sept. 19, The BOC came to a consensus, deciding to hold off on TSPLOST until after the next SPLOST referendum is decided during the May election cycle.
“TSPLOST is another tax, but it’s based on usage and not on how much your house costs,” said County Manager Adam Mestres. Mestres also noted that 60 percent of TSPLOST revenues could come from out-of-county consumers. While TSPLOST may be a desirable way to bring in more revenue for the county, commissioners were hesitant to pursue it until after the next SPLOST referendum. The BOC noted that since SPLOST must pass in order to fund the ongoing debt service payments on the Public Safety Complex, as well as other imperative infrastructure and maintenance projects, and to avoid substantially raising the millage rate.
“SPLOST has to be the top priority,” said Commissioner Andy Ainslie, who worried introducing TSPLOST would only confuse voters and risk the passage of SPLOST. “We cannot have the two on the same ballot,” urged Ainslie.
County staff is finalizing the proposed SPLOST packet, which will be voted on May 22, 2018. After that election, the BOC will focus on educating the community about TSPLOST as a way to make up other revenue streams that are currently in jeopardy, such as the nearly $800,000 a year the county receives through The Forestland Protection Act, which is potentially on the state legislature’s chopping block.
“SPLOST is the most important one, but TSPLOST is important, too, because more revenue is going to have to come from somewhere to make up for what we stand to lose,” said Commissioner Philip Von Hanstein.
The BOC may decide to put TSPLOST on the November 6, 2018 ballot.
“We have to make sure we have enough time to educate the community about TSPLOST and how it benefits the entire community,” said Mestres.
The current SPLOST is set to expire in March 2019. If the next SPLOST passes in May 2018, collections will not began until April 1, 2019.
“There is no overlap between SPLOSTs,” said Mestres.
The BOC is confident that Morgan County voters will approve SPLOST as they have done in previous years.
“SPLOST has a very high success rate here,” said Mestres. “But we still need to have the necessary public awareness and education to the majority of people so everyone knows what exactly it is and what they are voting for. We want people to really understand what this penny sales tax is taking care of,” said Mestres.