Friday, December 20, 2013

Oconee County Has At Least $2.6 Million In Unspent Funds From SPLOST 2014, Report Shows

Estimate Is Conservative

Oconee County has at least $2.6 million in unspent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax revenues from the 2004 tax initiative as the Board of Commissioners begins preparing voters to approve a new sales tax in May of 2014.

The current tax, SPLOST 2009, runs through October of 2015, and, as of June 30 of this year, the county had spent less than half of the projected revenue from that tax. Revenue is running behind projections, however, and the county has tried to hold spending to about 80 percent of projections.

The largest unspent category in the 2004 SPLOST is for county facilities, which could include some funding for a new judicial facility or courthouse, and the county has spent less than $1 million from the $4.6 million set aside in the referendum for county facilities.

The county has overspent in other categories, such as for water and sewer projects.

These figures come from the legally required report of SPLOST funding through June 30, 2013. The actual report must be published in the county’s legal organ, The Oconee Enterprise, by the end of the year.

Spending Requests

The unspent SPLOST 2004 funds could be a liability as the Commissioners make the case for a new 1 percent sales tax in May.

Commissioner John Daniell made that argument at a special session of the Commissioners in January, suggesting that they take action to spend the money before asking for more.

The Commissioners are sorting through $137 million in requests from county department heads and elected officials in preparation for the May vote.

That figure was given to me by Wes Geddings, county finance director.

Some Requests Released

Geddings did not release a breakdown of the total, but he did release to me some individual department requests.

These include $5 million from Fire Rescue, $12 million from Public Works, $13 million from the Utility Department, $4.7 million from the Industrial Development Authority, $5.5 million from the Department of Parks and Recreation, and $2 million in facility renovation costs.

The county is discussing construction of a new courthouse, with an estimated cost of $20 to $25 million, at least some of which likely would come from SPLOST funds. That cost is not reflected in the department requests released by Geddings.

The current SPLOST is for $40.4 million, with $5.7 million of that going to the county’s four cities.

SPLOST Report Details

State law requires the county to report each year on spending from any active SPLOST initiatives, and the 2004 SPLOST is included because the county has not spent all of the money from it.

I filed an open records requests to get a copy before it appears in the newspaper. State law requires that the report be available once it is produced, not when it is published.

I received the copy yesterday and a slightly modified version today.

The 2004 SPLOST was for $25 million, but the county collected more than that amount and receives interest on the invested funds.

For that reason, it isn’t possible from the report to know how much unspent money actually exists from the 2004 SPLOST.

The report projects costs of current projects at more than $26 million, indicating that at least that amount is expected to be available.

That means the county has close to $3.6 million in unspent funds. The $2.6 million estimate is based on initial tax revenue projections.


Anonymous said...

"The county has overspent in other categories, such as for water and sewer projects."

This is completely UNACCEPTABLE. But the other commissioners allow Melvin Davis to do whatever he wants without any checks & balances.

Anonymous said...

Amen, Anonymous. I am sure when this older SPLOST was brought up, it was presented as URGENTLY needed. Yet years later money is sitting in a bank account while some things that were proposed are undone. Or the money is spent in other categories. Yes, commissioners, get some backbone and let your voices be heard. One person should not rule.

Beanne said...

The problem with budgeting is that the county does not quite know what is needed when the SPLOT is passed. I don't have any problem with them slightly overspending in one needed infrastructure area, but I do think only Mr Daniel is awake on the Board. They should definitely plan for spending the rest before they ask for more. We should know how much they actually have, including interest.

Xardox said...

Hey, here's a novel idea: