Bulloch County residents who vote Tuesday will decide whether to continue a tax based on retail sales that funds improvements to county assets.
The Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) is a once-cent tax, added to other sales tax, charged per dollar spent by consumers in the county.
Sales tax in Bulloch County, including the SPLOST, is seven cents on the dollar.
This means visitors from other counties who spend money in Bulloch County help pay for things like the Bulloch County Jail expansion, the Mill Creek Tennis Center, Statesboro-Bulloch County Airport improvements and more, said Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch.
The SPLOST renewal is not an increase on the tax on the dollar, and is an alternative to increased property taxes in the county, he said.
If the SPLOST is not passed, it would take an increase in property taxes by about 1.1 mil to equal the fund that help pay for such improvements, he said.
In the past, SPLOST money has funded the expanded and improved Bulloch County Animal Shelter; expansion of the jail and Bulloch County 911 Center; the new Georgia State Patrol Post 45 building; improvements to Mill Creek Regional Park including Splash in the Boro and the tennis center; and much more, he said.
The Averitt Center for the Arts and Emma Kelley Theater were partially funded by SPLOST; as were the Statesboro Police Station, Gateway Industrial Park expansion, new fire substations around the county, and the agricultural complex, he said.
While Bulloch County residents pay the one-cent SPLOST when they spend their money here, so do people from outside of Bulloch County, Couch said.
Using a tool called the “retail pull factor,” Couch estimates “conservatively, 35 to 40 percent, maybe a little more or less” of money spent in Bulloch is from consumers who live outside the county.
Bulloch County and Statesboro draw people from other counties that are “less affluent” or that do not have large retail stores and the variety of restaurants and businesses that Statesboro has, he said.
Georgia Southern University influences the county as a retail hub as well, he said.
Tuesday, voters will have the opportunity to decide whether to continue the SPLOST. If the SPLOST is not continued, other alternatives will be necessary in order to maintain improvements to county property and projects, he said.
Voters will also be able to decide whether Bulloch County Commissioners may form a special tax district to fund needs for a proposed industrial park.
The referendum addresses Georgia’s Redevelopment Power Law, which allows local governments to use Tax Allocation Districts (TADs) to fund redevelopment projects, Couch said.
Bulloch County is considering an industrial park off U.S. 301 South near Interstate 16, and there is a need for a TAD to fund infrastructure to businesses can begin locating there, he said.
TADs “help local governments attract private development and new businesses which create jobs, draws customers and generates additional public and private investment without putting pressure on the current tax base and taxpayers,” he said. This will not mean increased taxes.
Instead, new businesses coming into the designate district will pay their taxes, which mean increased property values in that district due to the new businesses, and the increase in taxes from higher property values will be set aside for funding the infrastructure in the industrial park, he said.
There is no risk of cost to citizens. “Funding to support new infrastructure needed for development in a TAD is secured by a ‘tax allocation increment,’ which is the increase in property tax revenues resulting from the redevelopment activities taking place within a defined TAD,” Couch said. “Tax allocation financing would allow the county to charge the costs of constructing public facilities and infrastructure directly to the new or expanded businesses that use them, rather than the public at large.”
Bulloch citizens go to the polls Tuesday. Nov. 8, to vote on local elections as well as the SPLOST and TAD referendums.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.