Web-exclusive: SPLOST tax revenues fall short

ALBANY, Ga. -- Sales tax revenues under the current special-purpose local-option sales tax will fall $1.8 million under projections, Dougherty County commissioners learned this morning.

SPLOST V, which is set to sunset in March 2011, will fall far short of the revenues it was expected to generate, members of the commission's finance committee said today.

To compensate, the commission will pull funding that was included to find a new downtown home for the Albany Museum of Art, now located on Meadowlark Lane adjacent to Darton College.

AMA board members have indicated they do not plan to move the museum in the near future.

With the recession prompting what once were even the most free spending of people to become penny-pinchers, local governments are feeling the squeeze on their sales tax numbers which are directly tied to retail sales.

SPLOST V was first passed by the voters in November 2004 and collections began flowing in from the state department of Revenue in April 2005 before the most virulent part of the recession took hold, County Finance Director Karen Goff told commissioners Monday.

And those first few strong quarters --- when sales were flowing largely at pre-recession levels --- have helped soften the blow, Goff said.

The interest earned off of money that was collected during those early months but not spent ---- $1.3 million --- cut into what would've been a sales tax shortfall of $3.1 million.

The shortfall estimates are just that: estimates. There is a chance that if the recession is, in fact, waning as some experts say, that some of the busier retail months ahead could lift those projections, Finance Committee member and Commissioner Chuck Lingle said.