By Tia Lynn Ivey
Four-and-a-half years into the current SPLOST, and revenue collections are about 20 percent under what was originally expected.
SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) is one-penny sales and use tax used to service debt and fund infrastructure projects and maintenance for Morgan County and each of the municipalities.
Originally, the current SPLOST was projected to collect about $26 million in revenue. If the current trend continues, this SPLOST will take in about $5.2 million less than anticipated.
The Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) discussed the issue at the last work session on Tuesday, Sept. 19.
“If the current SPLOST is coming in 20 percent short, who has to take the shortfall?” asked Commissioner Philip Von Hanstein.
“Unfortunately, it’s usually Roads and Bridges that ends up taking the hit,” said County Manager Adam Mestres, who noted that no final decisions have been made regarding which specific projects will be affected by the SPLOST shortfall.
“Ideally, we don’t want to cut out any project, but reprioritize and refocus on lower priority projects and maybe adopt a ‘phase-in’ approach to readjust for the loss in SPLOST revenue,” explained Mestres. “The lower priority projects will most likely have to be scaled back. We ae not going to overspend, so we are just going to have to look at what our priorities are and go from there.”
Mestres noted that since a portion of SPLOST is designated from the City Madison, Rutledge, Bostwick and The Town of Buckhead, each of the municipalities will suffer a loss of projected revenues as well.
“This doesn’t just hit the county,” said Mestres. “Unfortunately, each of the cities will take a hit, too.”
The City of Madison is feeling the loss as well.
“We are going to be short as well in SPLOST funds,” said Karen Stapp, chief finance officer for the City of Madison. “We just had to make adjustments to projects where needed to compensate for loss revenues.”
Stapp noted that several projects will likely be scaled back due to shortfalls in SPLOST, such as road improvements, projects for Parks and Greenspace, City Hall renovations, and adding restrooms to Hill Park.
“We are not going to be able to use SPLOST money that was originally put aside for those things,” explained Stapp. “When the time comes, we will either have to scale those projects back and work with the new budget or find funds elsewhere.”