Liberty County officials and representatives from five of the county’s seven municipalities met Tuesday to discuss SPLOST-revenue projections and the steps to finalizing SPLOST 2015 project wish lists.
The officials tentatively will meet at 11 a.m. April 28 to discuss projects they hope to place before voters Nov. 4.
SPLOST is a 1 percent sales tax collected by city and county governments to fund capital projects such as buildings, recreational facilities, roads and water and sewer systems. If approved, the next SPLOST cycle would last six years, beginning in April 2015 and ending in March 2021.
Flemington Mayor Pro-Tem Paul Hawkins, Midway Mayor Dr. Clemontine Washington, Walthourville Mayor Daisy Pray, Riceboro Mayor Bill Austin and Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas attended the meeting, along with Liberty County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette, Liberty County Administrator Joey Brown, Hinesville City Manager Billy Edwards, Assistant County Administrator Bob Sprinkel, county finance director Kim McGlothlin and County Attorney Kelly Davis. Officials from Gum Branch and Allenhurst did not attend.
Lovette said the county and cities have congenial relationships.
“We do pride ourselves on how well we collaborate,” he said.
Savannah attorneys Jim and John Pannell with Gray Pannell & Woodard LLP offered a legal overview on SPLOST.
Jim Pannell said it is best to have an inter-governmental agreement concerning SPLOST allocations. Without an agreement SPLOST funds would be divided based on population, he said.
Pannell said governments cannot use SPLOST funds for operations, only for capital outlay or to pay previously incurred debt on projects. The attorney also advised officials on a timeline for the referendum. He suggested the county and cities hammer out their projects, have an agreement drafted by July and formulate their ballot question by late August.
McGlothlin told city officials the estimated revenue on a six-year SPLOST is $55.4 million. She said the sales-tax projections for SPLOST 2015 are conservative to avoid over-anticipating revenues. Thomas said the military drawdown could impact SPLOST and agreed it was wise to keep estimates low.
McGlothlin said the current SPLOST estimates had to be revised last year because actual revenues were below projections. The original estimate was $51.5 million, but was reduced to $48.8 million, she said.
Brown suggested some SPLOST projects could benefit the county as a whole, such as road improvements and updating 911. The group talked about how countywide projects might be categorized, and that city-specific projects would be broken out.
Washington said Midway wants to acquire land and build a new city hall and would use SPLOST funds. She was advised to bring a project estimate to the next SPLOST discussion.
Brown said the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce could be asked to promote SPLOST. Pannell confirmed that governments are not permitted to spend public funds to promote SPLOST. Officials can offer information about SPLOST, but without expressing an opinion or advocating how a resident should vote, he said.
However, private citizens using private funds can advocate for SPLOST, Pannell said.