Many Bulloch County voters have already cast their ballots, but some who haven’t yet voted may have questions regarding the proposed Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) renewal referendum.
Bulloch County currently has an 8 percent sales tax, having voted this year to pass the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST) that added an eighth penny to every dollar spent in the county. This penny tax began in October.
The SPLOST on the ballot Nov. 6 won’t mean an additional penny; it is simply a vote to renew the current SPLOST, which was the seventh penny on the dollar, that consumers have been paying for the past six years, said Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch.
And as the name explains, the funds raised — expected to reap $62 million between now and 2025 — are to be used for special purposes only.
“The Bulloch County Board of Commissioners and the municipalities of Brooklet, Portal, Register and Statesboro have placed on the November 2018 general election ballot an extension of the current 1 percent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax,” he said. “SPLOST is used exclusively for various types of capital outlays for infrastructure, facilities and equipment, and not operations and maintenance as the property tax is used for. SPLOST proceeds are shared with Brooklet, Portal, Register and Statesboro by a formal agreement.”
The city of Statesboro has several projects, including upgrading and expanding greenways and parks, police and fire vehicles and equipment, and solid waste vehicles and equipment.
The city of Portal is speculating on land acquisition and building a park, community and senior citizen center, as well as making aesthetic improvements to the town including water tank replacement and buying a new police car, said Portal City Council member Sissy Carter.
Brooklet City Clerk Angela Wirth said the town hopes to remodel the community center exterior, pave some roads, and purchase new police vehicles.
Register Mayor Barbara Rushing said the town plans to use its SPLOST money to “mostly continue to upgrade (the) water system, and use some for equipment and adding a bathroom to the playground.”
Bulloch County has plans to use SPLOST funds to focus on solid waste improvements; a new, upgraded public safety radio system; expansion of the Bulloch County Jail; and equipment and upgrades for public safety and recreation.
Total revenue projection for the six-year run ($62 million) is expected to be portioned as follows: 54.6 percent for the county government, 42.3 percent for Statesboro, 2 percent for Brooklet, 0.9 percent for Portal and 0.2 percent for Register.
How it works
Voting to renew the SPLOST will not increase the amount of tax on the dollar being paid now, Couch said. Also, it is a sales tax, based on money spent in Bulloch, not a property tax. Passing the referendum will only extend the current SPLOST.
2011, county voters approved the current 1 percent SPLOST when collections
began in 2013, expiring in October 2019,” he said. “If the 2019 SPLOST
referendum now on the ballot for renewal is approved, the county will use its
favorable credit rating to issue $14 million in general obligation debt (paid
for by SPLOST) to immediately begin new construction and upgrades of its public
safety communication system.”
This includes new towers, associated technology and radios for emergency first responders, school bus drivers and E-911 operators.
The SPLOST renewal will also fund expansion of “administrative and jail space” at the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office.
“In fact, nearly half of the SPLOST ballot funding proposal (44 percent) will be committed to capital outlays for public safety equipment or facilities for law enforcement, fire, EMS, E-911 and similar services,” he said.
The SPLOST is nothing new.
“This is not a new tax or an additional tax. SPLOST has been successfully approved five times in Bulloch County since 1989, and continuously renewed since 1997,” he said.
TSPLOST is a different tax
The SPLOST is not to be confused with the TSPLOST, Couch said.
“In May 2018, the voters of Bulloch County did approve a referendum to increase the sales tax by 1 percent with the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax,” he said.
“Effective in October 2018, TSPLOST increased the total sales tax rate from 7 to 8 percent within the county. If SPLOST is extended by the voters, the total rate will remain at 8 percent.”
Currently, 78 of Georgia’s 159 counties have an 8 percent total sales tax rate, he said.
But where does that 8 percent go?
“Four percent leaves the county, going to the state of Georgia,” he said. “Four percent remains in Bulloch County.”
That 4 percent is divided, with 1 percent going to SPLOST, funding capital outlays shared by the county and municipalities.
Another 1 percent is applied to the TSPLOST, “funding capital outlays shared by the county and municipalities,” Couch said.
The final 2 percent goes to the Board of Education — 1 percent for the LOST (Local Option Sales Tax) that funds operation costs, and 1 percent for ESPLOST (Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) that funds capital outlays for the Board of Education.
How SPLOST helps
The SPLOST is not just a tax on Bulloch County residents, but brings money in from other counties and even states.
“A SPLOST is a consumption tax, not a property tax,” Couch said. “It is charged on goods purchased in Bulloch County, regardless of where the purchaser resides. One of the primary goals for renewing the SPLOST is to maintain the current property tax rates and prevent them from increasing, thus maintaining a steady and consistent millage rate over a long-term basis.”
Bulloch County commissioners, as well as mayors and city council members from Brooklet, Portal and Register, all met and worked out an agreement on how the funds will be split.
“The municipalities of Brooklet, Portal and Register will get 80 percent of their funding up-front to get a head start on meaningful projects,” he said.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.