0

SPLOST accounts down to 2 percent

Photo by Ricki Barker

Photo by Ricki Barker

ALBANY, Ga. -- A review of special sales tax financial records going back to the late 1980s show that just under 2 percent of funding obligated for capital improvement projects has not been spent.

City and county leaders are preparing to offer a new list of projects to voters in hopes they'll approve the measure that will keep in place a 1 percent sales tax. If approved in November, the special-purpose local-option sales tax, commonly referred to as SPLOST, would be the sixth time government officials have been able to use the funds for building projects and other allowable uses.

Since the first SPLOST was adopted in 1986, the city and county governments have received more than $350 million in sales tax from the measures. Those figures include the $56 million that has been collected as of May 3, through the fifth sales tax, which will expire in March. That special sales tax was budgeted to generate $65.8 million in revenue by the time it expired, although trends in spending could deflate that amount by $2 million.

While current sales tax projects are in the works and local elected officials are preparing their project lists for the upcoming special sales tax referendum, records indicate that roughly 2 percent of the money allocated for projects in the first four SPLOSTs, or $5.8 million, remains to be spent.

Under Georgia law, local government officials are limited as to what special sales tax funds can spent on. Only items approved by the voters in a referendum can be built or improved with sales taxes.

Government leaders are also restricted as to what projects they can put on the ballot by law. Generally, only capital projects -- roads, bridges, buildings, etc, -- can be funded, although the General Assembly has expanded the list as the years have progressed.

A breakdown of the numbers by each sales tax show where, in most cases, the unspent money is meant to be allocated.

Records show $99,000 appears to be the balance left in the first sales tax, but it's unclear as to where those funds were allocated.

In SPLOST II, roughly $902,529 appears to be the remaining balance, which is leftover funds from $2.5 million budgeted for the city of Albany's street lighting program.

In SPLOST III, a total of nearly $2.7 million is left as unspent funds, according to the documents. Of that sum, $6,524 is left in a fund for Juvenile Court, $83,964 is left unspent for a sewer project on Gillionville Road, $617,075 remains unspent in storm drainage improvements in both the city and the county and $103,510 is left for the recycle drop-off center.

Additionally, $719,394 remains unspent from the construction and development of a tennis center that at one point had the backing of community groups but has since stalled out.

Finally, $399,687 remains unspent for a speculative building originally budgeted at $750,000, with another $49,424 left for contingency.

In SPLOST IV, $2.8 million has not been spent, which includes $50,000 for street improvements, $181,000 for the Central Square Rehabilitation project and $1.3 million for the industrial park.

Commissioners from both the city and the county will be meeting June 30 to finalize project lists for SPLOST VI.