Adding a penny sales tax in Bibb County is the best way to pay for critical infrastructure work, Macon Mayor Robert Reichert and Bibb County Commission Chairman Sam Hart said in a Monday news conference.
The $190 million special purpose local option sales tax would pump money into recreation, public safety, road repairs and other upgrades, as well as pay off city and county debt. The referendum is Nov. 8.
Reichert said the governments have been tightening their belts, but the needs can’t be put off.
“These are not frivolous needs. These are not wishes and wants,” Reichert said at the news conference at City Hall. “These are necessary items for our communities.”
Without the sales-tax money, officials could eye property taxes, Reichert said.
Hart said the SPLOST itself would directly stimulate the local economy, while indirectly helping get or secure other jobs here. Hart championed one of the SPLOST projects -- a $6 million plan to buy Bibb County properties near Robins Air Force Base that are in noisy areas. That threat, called encroachment, could harm the base during another Base Realignment And Closure process.
“We don’t know when a BRAC will come, but we know one will come,” Hart said.
Among other things, a voter-approved SPLOST would pump tens of millions of dollars into debt payments, parks and recreation centers, economic development efforts and infrastructure.
During the news conference, Hart emphasized that the list was created with feedback from hundreds of Bibb County residents who attended a series of SPLOST listening sessions.
“It’s a good list,” Hart said.
Reichert, who opposed a county-led SPLOST initiative last year, emphasized that city officials worked with county leaders to create the latest SPLOST proposal. The new SPLOST project list cleared both city and county governing boards unanimously. He expects growing support in the community.
“The more people learn about this SPLOST, I think the more they’re going to be in favor of it,” he said.
In a statement released during Monday’s news conference, Hart and Reichert said they would create a SPLOST oversight committee that would regularly report to the public on how the money is being spent. Reichert said the governments are legally obligated to spend money on the projects on the SPLOST list if voters pass the tax.
Reichert said the complete list won’t be loved by everyone. But county residents would see new sheriff’s patrol cars and city residents would see new police department patrol cars, for example. He hinted at controversies over $2.5 million proposed for the Tubman African American Museum, saying, “Some projects are more popular than others.”
Attorneys and other officials with the city, Tubman and the Macon-Bibb County Urban Development Authority are still working on a plan to see how the Tubman’s new building could be completed with SPLOST funding.
If voters approve the SPLOST, it would raise sales taxes by a penny on the dollar for six years.