ELOST, SPLOST funds are low
Collection for Education Local Option Sales Tax (ELOST) are not as high as projected, Morgan County Superintendent Stan DeJarnett said Monday.
Concerns about the ELOST arose during the summer, when Director of Operations Bob Monk approached DeJarnett. Monk is in charge of the school systemâ€™s facilities and, therefore, keeps an eye on the incoming revenues.
â€œBob came to me back in the summertime and expressed some concern that the checks we were getting from the Department of Revenue have declined since after Christmas,â€� DeJarnett said.
Collections began in December 2005, after voters approved $21,260,500 for ELOST3.
With the countyâ€™s growth, DeJarnett expressed that he expected collections to increase as time progressed.
â€œWe thought as the economy of this county and the population grew, that the ELOST collections would continue to increase,â€� DeJarnett told the Board. â€œAs you can see, thatâ€™s not the case.â€� DeJarnett made the remarks at the Morgan County Board of Education regular meeting.
Moreover, after consulting with County Manager Michael Lamar, DeJarnett found that Lamar noticed a similar trend with the countyâ€™s SPLOST collections and had some of the very same concerns.
â€œIn the past six months, the monthly revenue generated has been less than it was during last two quarters of the year,â€� Lamar said, in a separate interview.
Currently, SPLOST collections are 10 percent less than they were in October 2006, according to Lamar.
â€œThe explanation I received from the Department of Revenue is that it had to do with the cycles of when they do the distribution,â€� Lamar said. â€œI hope itâ€™s going to rebound back to where we were six months, a year ago. It (collections received) should be more economy driven, and not have to do with the distribution time frame.â€�
DeJarnett also contacted the Department of Revenue, but said that heâ€™d never gotten a satisfactory explanation as to why two agencies levying a penny from the same organization donâ€™t have matching numbers when it comes to the comparison of ELOST and SPLOST collections.Â
â€œFor some unexplained reason, the amount they collect, which is a penny, and the amount we collect (also a penny) you would think should be virtually identical because theyâ€™re all collected from the same people,â€� DeJarnett said. â€œThe fact is those numbers are not identical. Theyâ€™re close, but theyâ€™re not the same.â€�
Further, the Department also didnâ€™t have much to say on the decline in the countyâ€™s ELOST collections, according to DeJarnett.
â€œThe only light the Department of Revenue could shed on this trend (of decline) was that after the first of the year, there was a decline in sales tax collected in automotive and lumber commodities,â€� DeJarnett said.
The declining trend present in county collections is not reflected in state collections, DeJarnett said, after talking to the Department of Revenue.
DeJarnett believes that the trend will soon be broken and wonâ€™t have an effect on the Boardâ€™s future plans.
â€œI can tell you that the average monthly collection is not what we were projecting this time last year,â€� DeJarnett said. â€œWe were projecting, at this point, to be collecting an average of $325,000.â€�
In actuality, $306,000 in ELOST funds was collected for the month of July.
By law, collection of ELOST funds must be made until the goal is reached or 60 months, whichever comes first. In the past, the Morgan County ELOST collection goal has been met before 60 months was up. In total, more than $6 million has been collected towards the $21, 260,500.
Barring an economic catastrophe, DeJarnett said, he plans to go on with the planned projects, which include the new gymnasium at the high school as well as the construction of a new elementary school in Rutledge.
DeJarnett told the Board that he plans to report to them on this matter each quarter.