Saturday, March 01, 2014

Oconee County Commissioners To Hold Called Meeting On Monday On SPLOST Requests

Push For May Vote

Oconee County Commissioners have agreed to a called meeting on Monday to discuss funding priorities for the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum they are scheduled to take up again at their regular meeting on Tuesday night.

The goal of the Monday meeting is to get enough agreement on the priorities so the Commissioners can decide on Tuesday night to put the issue on the May 20 ballot rather than postpone the vote until November.

At last week’s meeting, Commissioners John Daniell, Margaret Hale and Jim Luke said they were not ready to decide on priorities for spending the SPLOST revenues, which they must do before they can vote on ballot language.

The meeting on Monday will begin at 5:30 p.m. rather than the usual 7 p.m. and will be held in the smaller Grand Jury Room at the courthouse in Watkinsville rather than in the Commission Chamber.

Time Line

County Clerk Jane Greathouse released an agenda yesterday afternoon for Tuesday night’s meeting that lists four items for discussion on SPLOST.

The first is consideration of the referendum date. The second is consideration of SPLOST allocations.

Next the Commissioners are to discuss the required intergovernmental agreement with the county’s four cities for distribution of the revenue from the 2015 SPLOST.

Finally, the Commissioners are to consider a vote to call for the referendum.

The last day the county can publish the required “Call for Election” legal advertisement in the county’s designated legal organ, The Oconee Enterprise, is March 14.

Davis Took Lead

At last Tuesday’s meeting, BOC Chairman Melvin Davis told the four voting Commissioners his priorities for how to spend the revenues of the 2015 SPLOST and then asked for response.

Commissioner Luke said “I am no where close to ready to make any recommendations. I think it is way to early. I don’t think I’ve heard enough from the public yet.”

“I believe that November if probably the appropriate time, to slow the process down and get it right,” Commissioner Daniell said.

Commissioner Hale said she wanted to move the issue to November “to give us more time to look at the projects that are presented.”

“I am ready to move forward,” Commissioner Mark Saxon said.

Davis reminded the group that it had approved the timeline “in July and August of last year,” but he didn’t acknowledge that the timeline had been shortened because the statewide primary had been moved forward from July to May.

One Vote Needed

The discussion ended with Davis saying (in the video below) that he would add to Tuesday’s agenda a discussion of the date for the referendum.

The agenda previously released had included the consideration of SPLOST allocations, the intergovernmental agreement and the call for the referendum.

Greathouse issued the call for Monday’s special meeting at 8:20 a.m. on Friday morning.

Davis can vote in the case of a tie, so if one other Commissioner joins Saxon the vote can go forward for the May 20 ballot.

November Option

Daniell, Hale and Luke all said they preferred that the SPLOST vote be on the ballot in November. The current SPLOST does not expire until the end of 2015.

Moving the SPLOST vote until November would remove the issue from the primary ballot in May, when Daniell and Hale are to face opposition in the Republican primary. The filing of qualification papers begins at 9 a.m. on Monday and runs through noon on Friday.

Frank Bishop, developer of the Epps Bridge Centre, has asked for a referendum on liquor by the drink in restaurants, and that is widely expected to be on the ballot in November.

The effect of having both issues on the November ballot, which also will have contested races for the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House, and state offices, including the governorship, is difficult to predict.

Last year, in discussing SPLOST timing, Davis had said he wanted a vote this year in case voters turned down the referendum. That way, the county could hold a second referendum before the current SPLOST ends.

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