During a planning session Friday, the Liberty County Board of Commissioners discussed possible projects for SPLOST 2015. Commissioners also were updated on projected revenues the county could expect from the 1 percent sales tax.
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.
The county plans to meet with Liberty County’s municipalities in March to identify projects government officials want included on the referendum for the next SPLOST. If approved, the next SPLOST cycle would last six years, beginning in April 2015 and ending in March 2021.
Liberty County Administrator Joey Brown reviewed several SPLOST projects that previously were considered, such as continuing work on the Liberty County Justice Center and the Liberty County Community Complex, improving roads, buying public-safety equipment and vehicles, updating the 911 system and construction on the county-owned marina.
The county finance department recommended the commission consider using SPLOST dollars to pay down the bonds on the justice center and the airport public-facilities authority.
Liberty County capital-projects coordinator Tammy Richey told commissioners that $20.6 million originally was borrowed on the justice center, and $9.4 million in the next SPLOST could be allocated to make bond payments. The original bond on the airport was $5 million, and $2.6 million in SPLOST money could be used toward those bond payments, Richey said.
The estimated revenue on a six-year SPLOST cycle is $55.4 million, she said.
Richey has been tracking the current SPLOST, which began in 2009 and will end early in 2015. She had to revise the estimate in 2013, she said, because actual revenue was below the projected revenue. The original SPLOST estimate was $51.5 million, but was reduced to $48.8 million.
The capital-projects coordinator showed commissioners a graph that compared projected SPLOST revenues month by month to actual revenues. She said the actual revenue line “looks like an EKG.”
“This SPLOST has been more fluctuating (than in years past),” Richey said.
Commissioners also discussed budget items to be considered for fiscal year 2015.
Liberty County Finance Director Kim McGlothlin said the property-tax collection rate was at about 94 percent by June 30, 2013.
McGlothlin suggested commissioners consider the airport bond payment will use $125,544 from general funds if it is not funded through SPLOST. She and Brown asked the commission to keep in mind capital-funding needs, such as replacing computers and maintaining county buildings and equipment.
“County employees under the board of commissioners have had one merit salary increase in the past six years,” McGlothlin said.
Employees who work in departments run by some constitutional officers, like the sheriff’s office, tend to receive salary increases when they are evaluated or promoted, she said.
The county’s revenues from taxes remained fairly steady from fiscal year 2010 through 2013, except for a spike in fiscal year 2012, when the county received Office of Economic Adjustment funding, McGlothlin said. The remediation funds were dispersed to local governments by the Department of Defense’s OEA as compensation for preparations that were made for a fifth military brigade. The defense department canceled the additional brigade to Fort Stewart more than four years ago, and the military now is being downsized.
McGothlin offered commissioners a tentative fiscal year 2015 budget calendar. Next month, constitutional officers could present their budgets to the commission. In April, county departments can make their presentations. A public hearing on the proposed budget could be advertised in May, and the hearing could be held in early June so a final budget could be adopted in mid- to late June.
Commissioners also reviews solid-waste billing, the new juvenile-reform law and fire protection during their planning session. A county-wide planning session should be held sometime in May.