Macon-Bibb inches closer to new sales tax measure

Macon-Bibb County leaders moved a step closer Tuesday to requesting a new 1-cent sales tax.

The County Commission passed a resolution to hire Troutman Sanders law firm to advise them on the legal requirements of the sales tax. The revenue from the tax would be used to rollback the millage rate and would also result in a property tax freeze.

Commissioners are proposing the new tax after the millage rate increased 3-mills this year. The amount of revenue taken in from the local option sales tax would determine the extent of the property tax rollback.

“In looking for ways to provide additional property tax relief to its citizens, the Macon-Bibb County Commission is interested in learning more about the legal requirements for implementing (the new sales tax) in Macon-Bibb County,” the resolution said.

The County Commission would still need to request that state legislators OK a tax referendum, which would go before Bibb voters in November 2018.

The new tax would go into effect in 2019, and a millage rate rollback would occur in 2020.

Forest Hill Road

The next design stage for Forest Hill Road construction can now officially begin.

The Macon-Bibb County Commission approved spending nearly $689,000 on designs for the second phase of Forest Hill Road, which extends from Wimbish Road to Forsyth Road. The next design stage for Forest Hill designs will architectural and engineering work from Stantec.

Funding for this stage is coming from special purpose local option sales tax bonds.

State transportation officials said this summer that they expected the first phase of construction on the Forest Hill widening to be finished by the start of November.

The first phase of the project features the realignment of the Old Lundy/Lokchapee intersection and the addition of a “four-legged intersection” at the realignment of Newport Road, Forest Lake Drive South, Normandy Road and Glenn Hill Court.

Also on Tuesday, the County Commission approved a $1 million match for an electric buses and charging stations.

But there was some hesitation cited by a couple of commissioners about appropriating money for the electric buses when construction on the long-awaited Jeffersonville Road has yet to begin because of budgetary constraints.

“There are so many projects that have taken a shortcut” ahead of Jeffersonville Road, Commissioner Al Tillman said.

Mayor Robert Reichert said because of the federal grant there could be enough leftover money in the SPLOST to pay for Jeffersonville Road improvements, which have risen about $2 million because of increased utility costs.

The county’s portion, coming from SPLOST bond revenue, will match the $1.75 million federal grant the Macon-Bibb County Transit Authority received to purchase two electric buses. The buses will be used along the Second Street Corridor.

The commission also supported a memorandum of understanding with the Board of Education regarding the use of several recreational facilities.

Macon-Bibb will attempt to sell the Ed DeFore Sports Complex with the money from the sale being used to renovate Henderson Stadium. The memorandum also covers a new sports complex near Hartley Elementary school, which includes transferring ownership of Tom Fontaine ballpark.

The $1.5 million west Macon project includes a $750,000 contribution from the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation.

In other business Tuesday, the County Commission also approved:

▪  Using $175,000 of SPLOST bond funds to buy basketball goals and floor in preparation for the return of the state high school basketball tournament at the Macon Coliseum;

▪  Appropriating $307,110 of 2017 special sales tax bond proceeds to purchase new Bibb County sheriff’s vehicles;

▪  Changes to employee health insurance, including the amount of co-pay for emergency room and urgent care visits, and eliminating the co-pay for an online service. Committee members also approved a new lunch program where employees can learn more about health care, and providing cash incentives based on the number of steps an employee walks daily.

Stanley Dunlap: 478-744-4623, @stan_telegraph