Oconee County Commissioners tonight agreed to a new schedule for the 2015 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum, setting up public hearings in June and July that will lead up to a vote on Nov. 4.
The schedule calls for the Board of Commissioners to vote at its meeting on Aug. 5 on the final list of projects to be funded by the SPLOST, should voters approve it in November.
|Davis, Luke And Daniell, L-R|
Prior to that vote, the Commissioners are to hold a work session on July 2 to reach agreement on SPLOST funding priorities.
Commissioner John Daniell tonight asked that the Commissioners meet before the public hearings on July 30 and July 14 to resolve issues among them about how to address courthouse safety and requests from a number of department heads.
BOC Chairman Melvin Davis suggested the Board take up those matters at its regularly meetings on May 27 and June 3.
May Vote Postponed
Commissioners Daniell, Margaret Hale and Jim Luke, over the objections of Commissioner Mark Saxon and Davis, voted on March 4 to delay the SPLOST referendum to November.
Late last year, the Commissioners had agreed to a schedule for consideration of the 2015 SPLOST that presumed a vote at statewide elections then scheduled for July.
In January, the state legislature moved state election date to May 20 because of a federal court ruling on how the state handles absentee ballots.
Daniell, Hale and Luke argued that the change in dates meant they were rushing decisions on what was to be included in the SPLOST language unnecessarily and voted to delay the vote until November.
Saxon said he was ready to go forward, and Davis, who only votes in the case of a tie, registered his objection to the delay, saying it was possible for the Commissioners to reach agreement and stick to the original schedule.
With the new date, the county was obligated by state law to hold another set of hearings. Both will begin at 6 p.m. and be held at the Civic Center on Hog Mountain Road.
Daniell’s request was that the Commissioners reach agreement among themselves on what will be presented to the public at those hearings.
“I want to make sure we take some time before that first public meeting to have another couple of our meetings,” Daniell said tonight. “I know we’ve got some questions on the security plan that we need to have answered and finalized.”
He also said he felt the Commissioners should have more discussion with a few department heads about some of their requests.
Davis agreed readily to the suggestion.
Courthouse Key Issue
At a work session on March 3, Davis had suggested that the Commissioners turn aside a request by Chief Superior Court Judge David Sweat for $25 million for a new courthouse or judicial facility in favor on spending $2.7 million to improve security at the current courthouse.
That change will require that all of the non-judicial offices now in the courthouse, including the Commission office and the tax office, be moved elsewhere.
Daniell contended it was necessary to know something about those relocation plans before the Commissioners could vote on the SPLOST priority list.
Davis proposed that the $2.7 million to be spent on courthouse security come from unspent SPLOST 2004 funds, and Daniell argued that such a proposal, which had not been made prior to that meeting, required additional time for consideration.
SPLOST 2009 Expiration
Davis said last year that the county needed to put the 2015 SPLOST on the ballot early in case voters turned it down.
State law does not allow a county to put a defeated SPLOST referendum back on the ballot until a year has passed.
According to Oconee County Finance Director Wes Geddings, the first collection from 2009 SPLOST was October 2009. The state distributes the funds a month after collection, so the first distribution month was November 2009.
The 2009 SPLOST expires on Sept. 30, 2015, with the last distribution in October 2015, according Geddings.
That means, if voters should turn down SPLOST in November of 2014 and the county puts it back on the ballot in November of 2015, the county would miss out on SPLOST revenues for October and November of 2015 even if voters gave approval in the second vote.