Friday, December 21, 2012

Oconee County Reports Surplus For 2004 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax and Spending From 2009 Tax

BOE Reports Tax Spending Too

Oconee County has $4.7 million in unspent revenue from the 2004 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax of 2004, which expired at the end of 2009, according to the required annual report on SPLOST spending published in yesterday’s edition of The Oconee Enterprise.

The report also shows that the county has spent about a third of the projected revenue from the 2009 SPLOST, which started in calendar year 2010 and will run for six years, ending in December of 2016.

Soft Balls Fields Behind Playground

The report is for spending ending June 30, 2012, or 18 months (one quarter) into the 72-month tax.

The county has spent $3.1 million of the $3.2 million allocated to upgrade the emergency communication system. It has spent nothing from the $1.1 million allocated for recreational, historic and scenic facilities.

The county has spent only $14,800 from the $6.9 million allocated for water and sewer projects.

The county’s strategy has been to spend only about 80 percent of the expected revenue from the 1 percent sales tax both because of the weak economy and because revenue is expected to grow during the life of the tax.

It does not have to spend equal percentages within the various categories approved by the voters until the end of the tax period.

County Administrative Officer Jeff Benko, formerly finance director of the county, has said he expects the tax to produce the $40.4 million projected when the tax was put before voters in March of 2009. The state will take $0.4 million as a fee for collecting the tax.

County Facilities In 2004

The county allocated $4.6 million from the 2004 tax for “County Facilities Expansion and Renovation” but has spent only $821,543. The county spent $287,130 in the year ending June 30, 2012, when it put a new roof on the county courthouse.

The county went through a series of discussions in 2009 and 2010 about the courthouse but never reached any consensus about what needs to be done to meet future needs. Much of that discussion centered on safety concerns for the courts.

The county had no specific projects listed when it asked voters in 2003 to approve the $4.6 million for facilities expansion and renovation.

As of June 30 of last year, The county had $5.7 million in unspent money collected from the 2004 SPLOST.

The unspent money continues to earn interest, so the county can continue to tap into the fund provided the spending is consistent with the broad categories approved by voters.

Farmland Protection Funded

The 2009 tax set aside $0.5 million for Farmland Protection, and the county spent $111,000 during the last fiscal year to protect from development a portion of the Powers farm on Colham Ferry Road.

Voters set aside $4.9 million in the 2009 vote for retirement of the debt for construction of Veterans Park on Hog Mountain Road. So far, the county has spent $1.8 million for that purpose. It has spent just less than $3 million for debt retirement on the jail out of $6.1 million allocated.

Of the $8.1 million set aside for road projects, the county has spent $3.1 million.

The 2009 tax set aside $3.9 million for fire stations facilities and equipment, and the county has spent only $14,656, but it is moving forward at present with plans to build a new fire station in Farmington.

Gentry Has Plans

Recreation and Park Director John Gentry told members of the Board of Commissioners earlier this year of his plans to spend SPLOST funds in the county.

The plan calls for improvements to all four of the county’s parks, but Oconee Veterans Park will be the big winner, with $590,000 of the $880,000 budgeted through June 30, 2016, going to that park.

Most of that money for Veterans Park–$495,000–will go to development of adult softball facilities.

BOE Report Also Published

The county publishes the SPLOST reports in the Enterprise because it is the designated legal organ of the county.

The paper rarely writes about the reports. The one in yesterday’s paper was at the bottom of page A7.

The Board of Education, by law, also must file a report on its spending for the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. That report appeared on page A7 of the Dec. 13 edition of the Enterprise.

The report shows that the BOE spent $5.9 million of the estimated $46.7 million to be generated by its 2012 tax. That tax of 1 percent was approved by voters in November of 2011.

The report also indicates that the BOE spent $10 million less than the projected $38 million to be collected by the 2006 ELOST approved by voters.

No comments: