Bibb County commissioners said Wednesday they had found a way to get sales tax money sooner for Macon and county projects, potentially undercutting one of the core arguments against passing a July 20 tax referendum.
Among other things, the advance money could replace a failing city-owned emergency radio system or build a bridge on a county road that keeps washing out.
County commissioners voted 4-0 Wednesday to seek loans through the Macon-Bibb County Urban Development Authority, money that would be borrowed against future sales tax collections. The money would be borrowed only if the Urban Development Authority agrees, the special purpose local option sales tax passes and bonds to accelerate an $83 million courthouse complex project are issued.
County Attorney Virgil Adams had been searching for a way to move up the other projects.
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“It gets us over the hurdles and alleviates the concerns of the people who say ‘Well, the city won’t get any money for two or three years,’ ’’ Adams said.
State law requires the centerpiece of the SPLOST vote, the courthouse project, be funded first, because Macon officials didn’t sign off on the SPLOST package. The Urban Development Authority is slated to consider the request in a meeting at 8:30 a.m. today. Adams said the authority’s chairman and attorney already have reviewed the proposal.
Macon, Payne City and Bibb County would have to sign intergovernmental agreements to borrow the money if the SPLOST passes. Each government would decide which projects, if any, would get earlier funding.
The delays have been a core argument among people fighting the SPLOST. In an anti-SPLOST newsletter sent out Tuesday, opponents wanted people to gather at an information session and demand more answers about timing, saying, “Will they be honest and admit that only the $83 million Courthouse complex will be funded for 3 or 4 years?”
Despite efforts by pro-SPLOST and anti-SPLOST groups to bolster attendance at the Tuesday information meeting, only about 35 people showed up. Lee Martin, a SPLOST opponent, asked most of the questions about when projects would be funded.
In a Wednesday letter to Macon Mayor Robert Reichert, Commission Chairman Sam Hart said the proposal with the Urban Development Authority “eliminates the issue of the City not receiving SPLOST funds” until the courthouse complex is built. Hart continued, “It is our hope the City of Macon will join Bibb County in efforts to pass the July 20th SPLOST to benefit our entire community.”
Macon officials pulled away from the SPLOST vote after the city and county got in a dispute over how to share services. Bibb County included about $60 million in SPLOST projects for the city, based on an unapproved draft list from city officials. The $83 million courthouse complex would be built in the city.
Adams said details, such as how much money could be borrowed through the Urban Development Authority and at what rate, have not been discussed. Bond rates remain low, and the bonds would need to be paid off within six years so there would be a low cost to borrow the money, he said.
The SPLOST would increase Bibb County’s sales tax rate from 6 cents on the dollar to 7 cents on the dollar.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.