Macon council committee tables SPLOST cutoff motion

A Macon City Council committee tabled a resolution that would ask the state Department of Revenue to stop collecting the 2005 special purpose local option sales tax earlier than expected.

The city was looking at the idea at the behest of Bibb County commissioners, who say the tax will have earned its expected $87 million by the end of June. It is not set to expire until March 31, 2009. Bibb commissioners, who are up for re-election this year, say they want to give any additional tax dollars raised beyond the projected amount — $5 million to $7 million — back to residents through a one-time reduction in their property taxes.

Members of the council's Appropriations Committee saw the proposed early cut-off date as political maneuvering on commissioners' part.

"This is a gimmick, and I see no reason why we should do it," said Councilman Tom Ellington, vice chairman of the committee.

Councilman Mike Cranford, chairman of the committee, called the resolution "a feel-good piece of legislation." When another council member asked him the advantage to stopping the tax, Cranford replied: "None."

Even if the city had gone along with the proposal, it seemed unlikely the state would have agreed to it. Department of Revenue officials have said they can't stop the tax ahead of time because state law forbids it when there is an agreement between governments to split the revenue, as there is between the city and the county.

Macon gets 33 percent of the revenue collected — about $29 million.

It has spent the money to pay down debt at the Macon Coliseum and Convention Center, pay for new equipment through the Georgia Municipal Association lease pool, retire general obligation bond debt and pay toward stormwater management.

If more than $89 million is collected before March 31, 2009, the city must use it to pay down other debts, for ad valorem tax relief, or to fully fund the original SPLOST projects. City officials say some of those projects — stormwater management and the lease pool, specifically — will require more tax revenue to complete than originally was allocated.