Recession may take $2M from SPLOST

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- When the latest special one percent sales tax revenues are collected next spring, city officials say they expect to be about $2 million short, thanks to a lingering economic recession.

The tax, which was approved by the voters six years ago and is collected through the assessment of a one-percent tax on items sold in Dougherty County, can only be used for capital improvement projects like buildings, roads, parks and other construction or repair projects.

Monthly revenues generated by the tax have declined by nearly $100,000 per month, prompting Albany City Manager Al Lott and city staff to delay two remaining SPLOST V projects until final SPLOST projection figures come in.

Those projects -- a Chehaw Connector which includes a pedestrian bridge over Philema Road and infrastructure improvements to the Holloway Basin -- total roughly $9.6 million.

The projects are among the last to be started under SPLOST V by the city. According to city officials, the only other projects that have yet to be started are roughly $1.2 million in infrastructure and technology improvements earmarked for the Parks at Chehaw.

Meanwhile, the city took preliminary steps to finalize the percentage split that would be used to determine how revenues are divided between the city and county should SPLOST VI, which is up for a vote in November, be approved by voters.

The commission unanimously approved a 64 percent to 36 percent split, with the city receiving the lion's share. That vote won't become official until the night meeting later this month.

County officials, who appear to be willing to partner again with the city for SPLOST through an intergovernmental agreement, said that staff will make a recommendation for the same split to the county commission.

County Administrator Richard Crowdis said during a meeting Monday that he would be providing commissioners with a list of possible SPLOST VI projects as early as Monday.

A joint meeting between the city and county to finalize projects has tentatively been set for June 30 at the civic center.

Although it wasn't meant to be the focus of discussion Tuesday, the city's project list ended up being a popular one among commissioners.

Some changes in the list include two significant reductions in requests from both the Information Technology Department and the Transit Department.

I/T Director John Antonowicz had requested funding for upgrades to the I/T system, but commissioners had requested that since that department is a joint city/county department, that Antonowicz rework his request to reflect the city/county split of revenues. That move reduced the original request by 42 percent.

Transit Director Lee Burner also reworked an $800,000 request for SPLOST funds for buses after the commission asked the request to more accurately reflect a local, state and federal split of funding.

Tuesday, Burner's request had been reduced by $400,000.

Albany Mayor Willie Adams' requested last week that roughly $7.5 million that is projected to be left over after the list of projects is completed be reapportioned evenly across the six wards. Under Adams' proposal, commissioners would decide how that money is spent in their wards. The proposal has been positively received by most commissioners.

With the money saved from the I/T and Transit Departments added to the pot, that means that commissioners each would be able to use $1.2 million towards capital projects in their districts.

Adams said Tuesday that he would be allocating his entire $1.2 million towards the construction of the SOWEGA Council on Aging's new Senior Citizens Center and asked each commissioners consider giving $100,000 each towards the project.

Commissioner Roger Marietta said he would support the senior center but said that he also felt that the commission should consider funding requests from both the 911 Communications Center and the Albany Police Department for technology and infrastructure upgrades.

Commissioner Tommie Postell also asked Lott to re-word the request for funding for the demolition of the Heritage House to be more general so that the city could possibly use some of those funds to demolish other blighted structures like the Pritchett Ford building on Slappey Boulevard.