A proposed six-year, $62 million extension of Bulloch County’s existing Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax is headed to the Nov. 6 ballot after action this week by two county boards.
The four cities in Bulloch County, as well as the county government, would receive population-based shares of the money for their own projects. But first, $26.2 million is earmarked for shared projects said to serve all. This includes almost $7.25 million for expansion of the county jail and renovation of the sheriff’s department offices, $6.75 million for a new public safety radio system and two categories totaling $12.2 million for solid waste disposal and recycling capacity and equipment.
The Statesboro, Brooklet, Portal and Register councils accepted the intergovernmental agreement last week. Then the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners formally approved during a specially called meeting Tuesday evening. But voters get the final say on the SPLOST three months from now.
“We certainly hope that SPLOST passes because it would be a tragedy if it doesn’t,” Board of Commissioners Chairman Roy Thompson said Thursday. “With the SPLOST dollars, our capital projects are funded out of there, equipment is funded out of there and just some of the major budget issues.”
On a motion from Commissioner Jappy Stringer seconded by Commissioner Robert Rushing, the county board adopted the agreement 5-0, with Commissioner Anthony Simmons absent. A separate motion, from Commissioner Curt Deal seconded by Commissioner Ray Mosley, to approve the SPLOST resolution also passed 5-0.
Then the county’s three-member Board of Elections and Registration held a meeting Wednesday and unanimously set the referendum for Nov. 6. The election notice appeared in the Statesboro Herald’s public notices pages Thursday.
With the earmarked $7.25 million, the proposed jail expansion involves converting Bulloch County Correctional Institute, which county officials have suggested will be closed as a facility for state inmates. Becoming county jail space, it would primarily house defendants awaiting court and people serving local sentences.
The alternative, building two new cell pods onto the existing jail, would have pushed the cost to about $15 million, “and honestly, we just couldn’t afford it,” Thompson said.
Motorola recently submitted the only bid for the new countywide two-way radio system for use by law enforcement agencies, fire departments, the ambulance service, emergency management, the school system, colleges and university. It will be compliant with the federal P25 digital protocol and replace an existing 800 megahertz system, which Thompson said has some dead spots in its coverage.
“There will be three new towers going in, along with the towers that we’ve got, and there will be no dead areas of Bulloch County,” he said.
Under the intergovernmental agreement, the city of Statesboro will help pay for the radio system infrastructure but stands to be refunded 42.3 percent of what the county spends on the actual radios. This was because Statesboro had already purchased P25 handheld radios.
Beyond the $26.2 million in shared projects, the county government would receive an estimated $19,646,800 for projects specifically its own while the city of Statesboro would get $15,143,400. But the county and Statesboro would begin receive those funds only after monthly payments are set up for the shared projects and after the three smaller cities divide a little over $1 million.
County-specific funding categories include another $7 million for public safety facilities or equipment, $4.65 million for recreation facilities or equipment, another $2,357,000 for solid waste facilities and equipment and $2.1 million for capital spending, such as land purchases, for economic development.
The county government also anticipates receiving $180,000 for voting equipment, $1.95 million for improvements or equipment for administrative buildings, $850,000 for courthouse and judicial facilities or their equipment and $559,800 for computers and other information technology equipment and software.
Statesboro-specific categories include $5,758,000 for public safety facilities or equipment, $160,000 for information technology equipment and software, $3.83 million for water and sewer projects, $1 million for natural gas system projects and another $250,000 for solid waste facilities or equipment.
Additional Statesboro categories are $1 million for capital spending for economic development, $1.15 million for administrative building improvements or their equipment, $270,000 for improvements or equipment for cultural facilities, $1.1 million for parks, trails and greenspace and $625,000 for public works department projects or equipment.
Brooklet’s $716,000 total revenue would include $172,000 for public safety facilities or equipment, $290,000 for recreation facilities or equipment and $254,000 for water system projects.
Portal’s $222,200 share would include $50,000 for public safety facilities or equipment and $172,200 for water and sewer projects.
Register’s $71,600 share would include $25,571 for public safety facilities or equipment, $35,800 for water system projects and $10,229 for recreation facilities or equipment.
If revenue exceeded $62 million in six years, the county would get 54.6 percent, Statesboro 42.3 percent, Brooklet 2 percent, Portal 0.9 percent and Register 0.2 percent of the extra funds.
Unlike the referendum in May that authorized a new Transportation SPLOST beginning this October, the November referendum will be to continue an existing penny tax, the multipurpose SPLOST.
With T-SPLOST already approved, local and state sales taxes in Bulloch County will total 8 percent on nonexempt items. They would continue at that level going forward if the existing SPLOST is continued, effective Oct. 1, 2019.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.