Sunday, January 30, 2022

Oconee County Finance Director Gives Commissioners Fiscal Update, Says Old SPLOST Accounts Now Exhausted

***Bond Sales For Costco Approved***

Oconee County has now spent all of the funds collected as part of the 2004 and 2009 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Taxes and more than 86 percent of revenue from the tax referendum passed by voters in 2015.

The county has collected $1.3 million from the 2021 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, which the county began collecting on Oct. 1 of last year and which will run for six years, but so far it has not spent any of the funds from the tax.

These were some of the messages County Finance Director Wes Geddings had for members of the Board of Commissioners at their Agenda Setting meeting last week.

Geddings also told the Board that, at the end of the second quarter, 79 percent of the projected General Fund revenue for Fiscal Year 2022 has been collected, that less than half of the projected expenditures have been made, and that sales tax revenue in the last three months is ahead of those three months last year.

“Oconee County is fiscally sounds as I give this picture tonight,” Geddings said.

At the beginning of the meeting on Tuesday, the Board removed from its agenda “due to market conditions” approval of a resolution for the sale of bonds for the county’s costs of inducing Costco to locate in Epps Bridge Centre.

The Board held a called meeting on Thursday but immediately recessed that meeting until Friday for the same reason.

At a meeting on Friday, the Board approved a resolution selling bonds for Costco in two batches, one of $11 million and a second of $5 million.

SPLOST Spending

Geddings’ report on Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) spending was an extension of the required report for the period ending June 30, 2021, in the Dec. 30 issue of the county’s legal organ, The Oconee Enterprise.

Haygood, Left, At Called Commission Meeting

In that report, the county reported spending in the last fiscal year $40,581 from SPLOST 2004 on County Facilities Expansion and Renovation and $215,722 from SPLOST 2009 on Recreational, Historical, and Scenic Facilities.

That spending closed out SPLOST 2009 and left $115,648 in the category County Facilities Expansion and Renovation from 2004.

“SPLOST 04 is gone,, spent, gone, no dollars remaining,” Geddings said at the Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday night. “This is the last time you’ll hear me talk about it.

“SPLOST 2009, 100 percent complete, gone, zero dollars remaining,” Geddings continued. “Last time I will talk about that one.”

“SPLOST 15, 86 percent complete,” Geddings said. “Most of that remains in the Water Sewer Facilities, and there’s a plan in place to spend that.”

Criticism Of Unspent Funds

The Board has come under some criticism for sitting on SPLOST revenue, and Commissioner Chuck Horton, after Geddings spoke, said “I’d just like to make one comment.

“I remember when I came back on the Board there was money in that 2004 and 2009. I compliment everybody in the county government. Those funds were spent for projects in this county that folks get to use.”

Some of the unspent money was used for the county’s new administrative building, now being planned.

Geddings reported that, from the 2015 SPLOST, all of the $250,000 set aside for Historic and Scenic Facilities remains unspent, and all of the $850,000 set aside for Economic Development Facilities remains unused.

About a third of the $12.1 million allocated for Water and Sewer facilities is unspent, but the Water Resources Department is undertaking a major expansion of the Calls Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Of the allocated $12 million for Roads, Streets, and Bridges, 14 percent is unspent.

Nine percent of the $1.5 million for the Civic Center, 10 percent of the $2 million for County General Facilities, and 5 percent of the $475,000 for Technology Facilities remain unspent, according to the report by Geddings.

Bond Resolution

County Attorney Daniel Haygood told the Board at the called meeting on Friday that the resolution before it was a supplement to the resolution it approved in August when the deal with Costco was announced.

All the Board was doing with the new resolution, Haygood said, was adding the actual numbers to the original document.

In August, the county announced that the Oconee County Industrial Development Authority will spend $10.1 million to purchase 23 acres from Epps Bridge Centre developer Frank Bishop.

Bishop will then lease the property from the Authority at no cost and sublease it to Costco for $4.9 million to cover costs of additional site improvements Costco is requiring.

To finance this incentive package the county will issue $16 million in bonds.

IDA Meeting

The Industrial Development Authority met before the meeting of the Board of Commissioners on Friday to agree to issue those bonds, which the county is obligated to pay.

Haygood said the county will sell $11 million in bonds at a 5 percent discount, netting $10, 945,000, and $5 million at a discount of $100,000, netting $4.9 million.

The overall net interest rate is 6.13 percent, Haygood said.

The sale of the bonds is set for Feb. 8, Jim Woodward, bond attorney, told the IDA, the land will transfer to the IDA on that date, and “construction will continue” at the site. 

Woodward, of  Gray, Parnell and Woodward, with offices in Athens, Savannah and Atlanta, represents in the county in bond transactions.


The video below is of the Jan. 25 Agenda Setting meeting of the Board of Commissioners and is located on the county’s YouTube channel.

The meeting begins at 3:30 in the video.

Geddings gave his Fiscal Year 2022 report, including spending on SPLOST, at 24:47 in the video.


B Haumschild said...

Lee, Thank you for the good work you do.
Why is it being leased to Bishop and not directly to Costco? Why were they split into two bonds?

Lee Becker said...

B Haumschild,

The bond split was a market decision.

The lease to Bishop involves a sublease to Costco. This is part of the arrangement that results in neither paying property taxes or taxes on the leases.

The details are in the earlier post.