Macon-Bibb County commissioners agreed in principle Tuesday to increase the amount of the upcoming special purpose local option sales tax to $280 million, which is $90 million more than the current SPLOST.
The decision came during a two-hour meeting where $280 million was suggested after county officials assigned money to nine categories of what they consider “must do” projects. Previously, commissioners had said they would ask voters in November to approve a SPLOST totaling about $240 million.
The current SPLOST, given the green light by voters in 2011, has a six-year sunset and a maximum of $190 million in tax revenue. The upcoming SPLOST would not be restricted by time.
“Because we’re a consolidated government, then we can go to the dollar limit,” Macon-Bibb spokesman Chris Floore said Tuesday afternoon. “The time limit isn’t there.”
While some specific projects were listed Tuesday, commissioners in their June 28 meeting are expected to narrow down which projects would receive sales tax money. A commission vote would be needed to determine the amount of money and which projects will receive funding.
That meeting “will be affirmation that ... you’re comfortable with the total figure of $280 million,” said Clint Mueller, legislative director of the Association County Commissioners of Georgia.
Among the possible SPLOST items listed Tuesday was a total of $15 million for repairs and upgrades to the City Auditorium and Grand Opera House.
Commissioners decided to shift about $23 million into debt retirement, which would help pay off a future bond for blight projects. The rational is that the bonds provide more flexibility on the types of blight projects that can receive funding. Another $10 million was listed under a separate blight category.
Macon-Bibb is aiming to have the SPLOST referendum on the Nov. 8 ballot.
The preliminary SPLOST projects list comprises:
▪ Landfill: $22 million;
▪ Courthouse repairs and upgrades: $40 million;
▪ Blight remediation: $10 million;
▪ Stormwater: $20 million;
▪ Debt retirement/blight bond repayment: $38 million;
▪ Roads/bridges/transportation: $35 million;
▪ Public safety: $20 million;
▪ Recreation/culture/public facilities: $70 million;
▪ Economic development: $25 million.
Committee approves new ‘Little Richard’ home location
The commission’s Operations and Finance Committee voted Tuesday on an agreement to relocate the childhood house of Little Richard Penninman.
The commission likely will vote June 21 to finalize the move from 1540 Fifth Ave. to roughly a half-mile away at 416 Craft St. The relocation is part of the mitigation in the Pleasant Hill neighborhood as the interchange improvements to Interstates 75 and 16 take place.
The plan would be to turn the home into a neighborhood resource center. The Georgia Department of Transportation would cover costs for renovating the house.
“My hope is we can find a neighborhood group or an authority to whom we can lease the building for a $1 ( a year) and they take care of utilities and manning it,” Mayor Robert Reichert said.
GDOT has pledged to spend about $10 million on improvements in the Pleasant Hill neighborhood. The first phase of the interchange improvements involves widening I-16 from I-75 to Coliseum Drive as well as bridge upgrades. The next two phases stretch from I-75 around Hardeman Avenue to the I-16 interchange, and the reconstruction of the interchange.
Officials to decide if garbage fees move to property tax bills
The commission will debate whether to change how garbage bills are collected.
Commissioners plan to hold a meeting to discuss having garbage fees paid annually as part of the property tax bills instead of the quarterly payments residents make now.
“I think your collections would go up because it’s on the property tax bill,” Commissioner Gary Bechtel said.
Over the past two years, the property tax collection rate is about 97 percent compared with a little more than 90 percent for garbage collection, Tax Commissioner Wade McCord said during the commission’s Operations and Finance Committee meeting.
Coliseum, auditorium contract moves to full commission
The commission’s Operations and Finance Committee approved a contract that deals with management of the Macon Coliseum and City Auditorium.
The full commission likely will vote on the contract before the end of June. Currently, the facilities are managed by Noble-Interstate Management Group, which also operates the convention center under a separate contract.
The proposed five-year contract with Philadelphia-based Spectra comes after commissioners agreed this year to seek proposals from various firms to manage the buildings. Spectra would cost the county $10,000 a month during the first year of the contract, with an up to 3.5 percent increase each year. The company, which manages more than 100 facilities worldwide, also could receive incentive-based payments.
Spectra will provide monthly financial reports, bank statements and receipts from each event. Macon-Bibb officials have said they’d like to be better kept abreast of the financial situation at the facilities since the county has to cover net operating expenses that are in the red yearly.
“We’ll be much more attentive to make sure we’re on top of (finances) from the jump,” County Attorney Judd Drake said.