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Lee County must tackle SPLOST shortfall issue

Collections for SPLOST V run $12 million short

Lee County Commission Vice Chairman listens to County Manager Ron Rabun discuss projects funded by SPLOST V and SPLOST VI. (Staff Photo: Danny Carter)

Lee County Commission Vice Chairman listens to County Manager Ron Rabun discuss projects funded by SPLOST V and SPLOST VI. (Staff Photo: Danny Carter)

LEESBURG — Lee County commissioners have a problem -- not one of their own doing -- but still one they must solve in the next few months.

Because of the economic downturn during the past five years, Lee County took in $12 million less than expected to finance improvement projects promised to voters who approved the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax V referendum.

“That’s going to be a real problem for us,” said County Manager Ron Rabun.

“Due to the economy failing, our estimate for collections did not pan out. Instead of the estimated $35 million, we collected about $22 million. We’re running behind in SPLOST VI also, but not near that amount.”

SPLOST V collections ended at the end of 2013.

The biggest project not completed under SPLOST V is $8 million in sewer system improvements.

Rabun, who was not in Lee County during the SPLOST V vote or projections, said he thinks the county does not need to spend that $8 million.

“I don’t think we need $8 million in sewer treatment,” he said. “Maybe we need to spend two or three million. We have to figure out how to do that and still abide by the law.”

The matter gets tricky, Rabun said, when specific wording of a SPLOST referendum promises specific tasks, such as paving a specific road by name.

Not doing that specific work makes it more difficult to get voters to support a SPLOST proposal in the future.

In more immediate matters involving SPLOST V, the commission has decided how to spend $488,515 of the $611,150 remaining in the account.

The bulk of the money, $322,835, will go to complete the Westover Road expansion project, which involves constructing the road between Ledo Road and Fussell Road. Another $100,930 will be used for improvements on six-tenths of a mile of Livingston Road in north Lee County.

Also allocated was $34,750 t0 do landscaping work on Starksville Road in Leesburg. A joint city-county project, work in 2013 on Starksville Road included resurfacing the roadway and relocating some utilities.

The commission also agreed to spend $30,000 of the SPLOST V for a well replacement at Grand Island Golf Club.