The Oconee County Industrial Development Authority voted earlier today to ask the Oconee County Board of Commissioners to earmark $4.6 million in the 2015 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for its economic development projects.
The IDA gets no funds from the current SPLOST, approved by voters in 2009 and continuing through the end of 2015, and the Authority said it wanted to get its request before the BOC so it can have its projects included in the next tax.
The IDA said it needs the money to invest in infrastructure for the Gateway Business Park on SR 316 near the Barrow County line and to purchase new land for industrial development.
The Board of Commissioners expects to ask voters in May of next year to approve another 1 percent sales tax, and it has asked county departments and committees to prepare requests for how that money is to be spent.
The public will not be invited to offer its recommendations until the first of the year, with the commissioners expected to vote in March on which projects to include in the ballot language for the tax.
IDA Chairman Rick Waller reported during the authority’s meeting at the courthouse today that the Product Development Subcommittee was recommending that the IDA “request SPLOST funds in the next SPLOST referendum.”
The request would be “placed under a general umbrella of economic development and therefore could be used for a number activities along the lines of economic development,” Waller said.
Waller acknowledged (in the video below) that there will be competition for SPLOST funds and that the IDA needed to make its request quickly.
County Economic Development Director Rusty Haygood said the funds could be used for sewer services for the western part of the Gateway park, a road into that same part of Gateway, and land acquisition for additional development projects and related infrastructure development of that land.
County Attorney Daniel Haygood said the request would have to be more specific than just economic development, but that the projects Rusty Haygood mentioned would be appropriate.
Current SPLOST Falling Short
The IDA spent a half hour discussing the recommendation of the Product Development Subcommittee before voting 7 to 0 to ask the BOC to include the $4.6 million request in the next SPLOST.
According to Development Director Haygood, the $4.6 million includes $500,000 for the Gateway sewer project, $300,000 for the Gateway roadway project, $3 million for property purchase, and another $800,000 for infrastructure.
The current SPLOST was projected to bring in about $40 million, but County Finance Director Wes Geddings told the IDA today his expectation is that the final take will be closer to $35 million.
The IDA has 11 members, including BOC Chairman Melvin Davis, who did not vote on the SPLOST action today. The remaining three members did not attend today’s meeting, which began at 4 p.m. and lasted for about 90 minutes.
I could not be at the meeting today. Sarah Bell, who often attends IDA meetings as a citizen, video recorded the session for me. The video clip above came from that recording. The full video of the IDA discussion of SPLOST is below. The discussion meanders, and Chairman Waller had difficulty getting the group to focus on the subcommittee report and to formulate the motion that was passed.