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County to call SPLOST meeting with cities
Manager looking for input on extending penny tax
Web Garrett Nevil
Garrett Nevil

      Bulloch County Commissioners are considering extending an existing Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) to be used for economic development and creating new jobs, said Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch.
      Commissioners met Thursday in a special called meeting to discuss this and other items, and voted to authorize Couch to organize a meeting with leaders from Brooklet, Portal, Register and Statesboro sometime within the next few weeks, Couch said Friday.
      The purpose of that meeting will be to discuss and consider "the call for a referendum on Nov. 8, 2011 to extend the current county Special Local Option Sales Tax that would expire in November 2013," he said.
      In the same move, commissioners hope to include a "companion referendum or ballot question" with the referendum that would possibly establish a Tax Allocation District (or TAD) for the I-16/US 301 interchange area, where the county plans to locate an industrial park.
      "The purpose of establishing a TAD is to use the portion of additional tax revenue generated by new development to help pay for needed additional infrastructure such as roads, water and sewer for a defined area and period of time," Couch said. "It is not a tax increase, but rather it is a method to use a part of the taxes collected from the additional increase in the values of these properties, which are then put in a special fund and are only available for use within in the designated TAD."
      In spite of Great Dane Trailers recently choosing to build a huge manufacturing plant in Statesboro, Bulloch has had a persistently high unemployment rate over the last three years, he said.
      The rate "has in recent months lingered at 10 percent," said Commission Chairman Garrett Nevil. "With the recent purchase of property for a new industrial park at I-16 and US 301, we cannot afford to let that asset remain idle without getting a return on investment."
      It is imperative that the county move on the referendum so, if passed, the project can get underway, he said.
      "Given the lead time necessary to plan and install infrastructure to generate new industry and commerce, considering an early renewal of SPLOST along with a Tax Allocation District accelerates the opportunity to get a quicker return on investment for the community," he said. "...while at the same time, it provides a seamless transition for planning county-wide capital projects for the remainder of this decade."
      Couch said county leaders have been talking about development strategies for the project for almost a year.
      "We are confident that we have developed a financing plan that utilizes the current tax base," he said. "While the final decision to call for these referenda in November will not be made until June, it is important that we carry out this dialogue to see if we wish to go forward."
      Current projections of SPLOST revenue collections for the proposed period of six years between 2013 and 2019 would be $76 million, he said.
      Early estimates for installing basic infrastructure (roads, water and sewer lines) stands at $12-$14 million, "to which no less than 50 percent needs be set aside for water and sewer from the proposed SPLOST extension." The remaining infrastructure would be taken from future TAD proceeds and grants, he said.
      The project would be handled much like the Bulloch County Jail expansion, he said.
      "We would use funds on hand to proceed with planning and engineering, and then bond the water and sewer costs to proceed with construction. By the time the water infrastructure would be complete, which we would schedule to occur with the new 2013 SPLOST collections, we could pay the bond off within the first 12 months of the renewal period paying very little cumulative interest."
      He said he could see no advantage at this time in bonding future TAD proceeds, "unless in the course of the water and sewer installation, a major industrial or commercial prospect commits to building within the district."
      The date of the meeting between Bulloch municipalities will be announced later, he said.
      Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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