Madison County voters will hit the polls in November to decide whether to renew a one-cent sales tax for county improvements. And county commissioners decided recently how they’ll allocate that money if citizens vote “Yes.”
The group expects to bring in $12.39 million in sales taxes over six years if the special purpose local option sale tax (SPLOST) is renewed. Over half of the money — $6.49 million or 52-percent — will go to road improvements. (See box for other allocations).
County commissioners approved the allocation by a 4-0 vote June 24. BOC member Jim Escoe was unable to attend the meeting due to a family medical matter. The board will officially approve a resolution July 1 to establish the SPLOST spending breakdown.
Citizens will continue to pay the same taxes at local stores if they renew the tax. But if the tax is shot down, one penny per every dollar spent in Madison County will remain in purchasers’ pockets. No citizens spoke for or against SPLOST June 24.
But the commissioners are adamantly in favor of the renewal.
Board members say a “No” from voters will bring county improvements to a standstill for roughly six years — unless those improvements are funded by property taxpayers.
“SPLOST is the most fair tax you got,” said commissioner Stanley Thomas. “It doesn’t put all the burden on property taxpayers. How will you do anything with roads without SPLOST? This (SPLOST) takes care of everybody, not just a certain group.”
The tax, if renewed, will fund water, sewer and road improvements at the county and city levels. There will be purchases of ambulances and patrol cars. There will be equipment and vehicle upgrades for local volunteer fire departments. There will be radio upgrades for the county 911 center. There will be facility and equipment upgrades at the recreation department. The transfer station will have equipment improvements. And more money will be tagged for renovating the upstairs of the old county courthouse. The county currently has $90,000 set aside from the 2008 SPLOST for those renovations.
While the board has focused on how to use money from the 2014 SPLOST, the group has also looked back at the 2008 sales tax in recent weeks. The county has yet to take any action on a primary project from the 2008 SPLOST — the expansion of the county jail.
Voters tagged $3.3 million for the jail expansion six years ago. Sheriff Kip Thomas has said he held off on the expansion to see how much money the county actually would receive through the tax, noting that he didn’t want to spend $3.3 million on expansions, when the tax might generate less than that.
Now, county commissioners are wanting to move forward with the expansion plans. They say they need to resolve the 2008 jail issue before presenting new projects for 2014. Likewise, if the jail project comes in under budget, the extra money could be used to fund other county improvements. For instance, commissioner Mike Youngblood said Monday that he’d like to see the county government provide the industrial authority with $2 million over six years and the volunteer fire departments with $1.2 million over the same period.
Dove asked Monday if there were any updates on jail expansion planning, but Sheriff Thomas wasn’t at the meeting. Sheriff’s office executive director Allison Craig said there might not be any excess funds from the jail expansion, since the project will include various upgrades to the facility, but Youngblood said the project should cost any more than $2.5 million.
Sheriff Thomas has proposed doubling the jail’s capacity, which will include an additional 64 inmate beds. But Youngblood mentioned the possibility of a 32-bed expansion.
No timetable has been established on a jail construction planning decision or a starting date.
If money is left over from the jail expansion, the excess dollars could be put back into the county’s general fund and distributed for other county improvements.
Also Monday, the board agreed to cut funding for a 4-H van from the county SPLOST proposal. But the group also decided to acquire a van through other means for 4-H.
The proposed six-year breakdown of funds for Madison County cities is as follows: Carlton, $126,900; Colbert, $289,050; Comer, $549,600; Danielsville, $273,300; Hull, $96,600; Ila, $164,550.
Danielsville mayor Todd Higdon recently asked the BOC to consider raising the SPLOST allotment for cities from $1.5 million to $2.5 million. He said Danielsville is in dire need of water and sewer system upgrades.
The BOC did not increase the allotment for cities.
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