Macon-Bibb County is expected to fall about $10 million short on local option sales tax collections.
County officials discussed Monday how to handle the projected shortfall, as well as paying back about $6 million from bonds used to kick-start the tax projects.
The County Commission is spending Monday and Tuesday in Athens for a retreat analyzing the first three years of consolidated government, as well as outlining goals for the new term and beyond.
When the Bibb County and Macon governments set up the $190 million special purpose sales tax initiative that would be collected over six years, officials projected about $10 million more in revenue coming in during that span, Mayor Robert Reichert.
But now, with a little over a year left in collections, county officials are projecting about 8 percent lower than the $190 million.
The 2012 SPLOST collections end March 30, 2018, and a day later collections start on a new $280 million initiative.
“We’ve tried to be as accurate in the projections as we could for the last 15 months,” Mayor Robert Reichert said. “Based on that, we’re trying to put the brakes on some of the spending, as painful as that is.”
County Manager Dale Walker suggested Tuesday delaying repayment of $10 million in debt and postponing about $5 million in storm-water improvements. That would cover the SPLOST revenue shortage and pay off bond interest. Officials also discussed the prospect of delaying about $1 million in road resurfacing projects.
Even with delaying some of the storm-water work, the county will be able to meet the requirements of the SPLOST, Reichert said.
“Look at the good things we were able to do with his money, the substantial completion of all the projects, with Lizella (recreation) waiting to be done,” he said.
The County Commission will spend Tuesday prioritizing future sales tax projects. The new SPLOST will have an unlimited collection period. Although collections will start in April 2018, officials are expected to issue bonds again so some projects can start this year.
The $280 million SPLOST includes money to continue the second phases of some recreation center improvements and for storm-water infrastructure. Officials estimate that tens of millions of dollars in upgrades are needed across the county.
“It’s a serious issue, and if we don’t get on that in the front end, it’s going to be more expensive 10 years from now,” Commissioner Virgil Watkins said.
The County Commission was also updated Monday on SPLOST projects that have been finished since 2014 and ones that are nearing completion. In the upcoming months, several recreation renovations, including Frank Johnson and Central City Park, will be completed, SPLOST manager Clay Murphey said.