City and county officials gathered Thursday to announce plans to call for a referendum to extend the special purpose local option sales tax.
Houston County Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker, Warner Robins Mayor Randy Toms, Centerville Mayor John Harley and Perry Mayor Jimmy Faircloth all expressed support for the referendum.
The vote would be held March 21. The current SPLOST doesn’t expire until Sept. 30, 2018.
Stalnaker said the reason for calling for it early is that there are projects that urgently need to be done. If the referendum is approved, the cities and county can borrow money to get those projects started before the next SPLOST starts. That doesn’t necessarily mean borrowing money that includes interest costs, he said, but the governments could borrow from reserve funds then pay that money back later as the tax proceeds are collected.
The tax adds one cent on the dollar to retail sales in the county, but Stalnaker emphasized that it is an extension of the current SPLOST so the sales taxes would not be going up if the referendum is approved.
Stalnaker declined to specify any projects. He said those are still being discussed and a proposed list will be released at two public hearings.
Perry and Warner Robins have ambitious plans to expand recreation facilities and that will likely be a big part of those cities’ SPLOST agenda.
The hearings are set for 4 p.m. Nov. 29 in the commissioners meeting room at the courthouse in Perry and 6 p.m. Dec. 7 at the commissioner’s meeting room at the county annex in Warner Robins.
“We would like to hear what the citizens want on the SPLOST and what they don’t want on the SPLOST,” Stalnaker said.
After the hearings are held, each governing body will vote to approve an intergovernmental agreement on the SPLOST, then the county will vote to call for the referendum. The meeting to call for the referendum is scheduled for Dec. 13.
Jimmy Autry, spokesman for Flint Energies, will chair the effort to get the SPLOST passed. Autry said the biggest selling point is that all of the governing bodies in the county have kept their promises in using SPLOST funds. He has been involved in the successful promotion of previous SPLOSTs for the local governments and for the school system.
“This is a group that has 100 percent, all the time, done what they said they were going to do with the money,” Autry said. “That’s why it’s easy to stand on the successes of what you have done in the past.”
The meeting was attended by council members from each of the cities and county commissioners. Stalnaker asked those officials to raise their hands if they supported the SPLOST and all did.