Liberty County leaders focused on paying down bond debt and maintaining county roads using sale-tax money Wednesday during a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax 2015 planning session.
SPLOST is collected by local city and county governments to help fund capital projects, such as buildings, recreational facilities, roads and water and sewer systems. The next SPLOST referendum is expected to go before voters in November. If approved, the next SPLOST cycle would last six years, beginning in April 2015 and ending in March 2021.
Liberty County Administrator Joey Brown asked commissioners to consider allocating $9.5 million to pay off the bond on the Justice Center and $2.6 million to pay the bond on MidCoast Regional Airport. These projects were built with funds from previous SPLOST cycles, but it will take the next SPLOST to pay what is owed, he said.
Brown added that $1.5 million in sales-tax dollars could be allocated to match the $1 million the airport will receive from the state’s Airport Aid Program to extend the runway.
The Airport Aid Program was allocated $8 million to improve airports across the state. The $1 million award for MidCoast will be given to the Georgia Department of Transportation for the 1,500-foot runway lengthening project at the local airport.
Brown also suggested setting aside $14 million in SPLOST funds for road improvements. Commissioners discussed how this money would be distributed, and asked Brown to determine how many miles of unpaved roads are in each district.
Brown reviewed other projects, such as renovating the gym at the Liberty County Community Complex; upgrading the county’s outdated 911 system; buying ambulances, police vehicles and fire-safety equipment; and renovating the public-works building.
County officials anticipate $54 million in sales-tax revenue for the next cycle, if the six-year SPLOST is approved by voters.
County leaders will meet with representatives from the cities April 28 to firm up a comprehensive SPLOST project list. The county met with representatives from the cities of Flemington, Riceboro, Walthourville, Midway and Hinesville in March to begin identifying projects they want included on the referendum for the next SPLOST.
Flemington already has submitted its SPLOST wish list to the county, Brown said. Flemington’s top three priorities for the next SPLOST are reconstruction of Patriots Trail and overlays of Wallace Martin and Joseph Martin roads, according to a letter from Flemington Mayor Sandra Martin.
The Liberty County Development Authority has asked the county to consider allocating $1.2 million in sales-tax money to improve critical-access roads in Tradeport Business Center, $250,000 to improve existing roads in Midway Industrial Park and $1.4 million to erect an elevated water tank in Tradeport Business Center. Liberty County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette, who serves on the authority, said these projects have been prioritized, and that road improvements in Tradeport Business Center top the list.
Savannah Technical College also asked commissioners to consider allocating $1.5 million to build a precision manufacturing lab at STC’s Liberty Campus.
“This lab would be customized to support the specific industries in the area but could include machine tool technology, industrial systems technology, drafting and more,” according to a letter from STC President Kathy Love. “The college’s foundation is in the very early stages of a capital campaign with $1.5 million to be dedicated for this purpose. We will seek private investment to support this expansion. Your support, through SPLOST, would leverage the private dollars for even greater impact in your community.”