Oconee County Commissioner Margaret Hale tonight asked her fellow Commissioners to delay the vote on the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum from May to November, but none of them expressed any support for her request.
“I think the Board is rushing the projects to get them through,” Hale said during the section at the front of tonight’s agenda for comments from Commissioners. “I think we need to take more time and vet out these projects more.”
Commission Chairman Melvin Davis asked for other comments and, hearing none, moved quickly to an announcement of his own, thanking county employees for their work during the recent ice and snow storm.
Hale told me after the meeting she intends to continue to try to alter the schedule for the tax vote.
Next Meeting Key
Following the public meeting on Feb. 10–the second and final such opportunity for citizens to voice their preferences for SPLOST projects–Davis told the public that the Commissioners will consider the more than $100 million in requests during the remainder of February.
At the next BOC meeting on March 4, the Commissioners are scheduled to vote to put the issue on the ballot at the May 20 election, the date of the statewide primaries.
The referendum language lists specific projects, so by March 4 the Commissioners will have to whittle down the requests to about $38 million that the tax can fund.
Hale will have to be joined by at least two other of the four voting Commissioners if there is to be a delay.
Davis votes only in the case of a tie, and he has worked hard to get the issue on the ballot on May 20.
Legislative Action Needed
Oconee County began planning for what is being billed as SPLOST 2015 late last year, when it was assumed that the statewide primary would be in July.
The legislature allowed for a shortened SPLOST calendar when it voted to move the primary forward from July to May in response to a federal ruling striking down how the state treats absentee ballots.
That change has meant that the time line between the meetings of the citizens on SPLOST and the decision of the Commissioners on which projects they want to include in the language of the referendum has been compressed.
Hale said the shortened schedule has not given citizens enough opportunity to express their views to Commissioners.
Liquor And Republican Contests
Atlanta Developer Frank Bishop, who has built the Epps Bridge Centre shopping mall on the Oconee Connector, has asked the Commissioners to put a referendum on liquor-by-the-drink on the ballot as well.
The most likely option for such a vote will be in November. How that would affect a SPLOST vote is uncertain.
In addition, the terms of Hale and Commissioner John Daniell expire at the end of this year.
Hale already has opposition in the Republican May primary. No one has yet declared she or he will run against Daniell, but that remains a possibility.
Both also could have opposition in November, if the Democrats were to find candidates for the two races. But the Republican primary is likely to be the more important contest in the heavily Republican county.
If the SPLOST referendum also is on the ballot in May, that campaign likely will have some spill over into the local primary contests.
The current SPLOST does not expire until the end of 2015. Both the current and the proposed 2015 SPLOST are 1 percent of purchases.