December 5, 2020

SPLOST V on Ballot May 22nd

(Franklin, GA) — Heard County and the Cities of Franklin, Ephesus and the Town of Centralhatchee have, for years, utilized SPLOST funds for the development of new public facilities and capital improvements of existing facilities. SPLOST IV (the current SPLOST), which started in 2013, ends in March, 2019.

These SPLOST funds are subject to specific regulations on their use, however your local governments could not accomplish what they have without these critical funds. SPLOST has fundamentally improved the quality of life in Heard County. SPLOST is a method by which sales tax dollars are collected to minimize the burden on property owners.

For many years, Heard County has benefitted primarily from the sales tax revenues on purchases of coal by Georgia Power’s Plant Wansley. However, environmental regulations on coal have forced Georgia Power to turn to other fuel sources such as natural gas.  This decline in the use of coal has resulted in drastically declining sales tax revenues.

Predictions are that current de-regulation will allow an increased use of coal and possibly an increase of revenues to our county through future SPLOST collections. Projects and benefits from these funds are apparent and worth a brief analysis.

Heard County has recently completed construction of a new Administration Building and has begun renovations on the Courthouse.

While some have suggested a new Courthouse might have been a better option, costs for a new Courthouse far exceeded the projected funding available due to declining revenues.

The Old Gas Station on the square was purchased in order to expand the Historical Society, expand the Museum’s genealogical research space and increase tourism.

Renovations and upgrades have been made to the 4-H Center (old rec gym) including adding a kitchen and front façade, resurfacing the parking lot, and upgrading the HVAC to create a multi-purpose facility.

Brush Creek Park has been upgraded and reservations have increased. The Covered Arena has seen the addition of hookups and a 52 stall barn and major events are now being booked. The Parks and Rec Department has been able to install batting cages and tournaments bookings have increased.

Heard Fire and EMS has been able to purchase new fire trucks, ambulances, turnout gear, breathing apparatus’, and a burn trailer for training.

911 capabilities have been upgraded to keep up with technological advances.

SPLOST IV funds have allowed the Roads Department to resurface approximately 132 miles of the 240 miles of paved Heard County roads. Georgia Law only allows up to 40% of collections for resurfacing.

Utilizing the Federal Surplus System to purchase much of the equipment and vehicles at pennies on the dollar, Heard County has been able to replace patrol cars, road department equipment, and maintenance equipment for many departments.

A good example of one purchase made is a bucket truck to trim/cut higher limbs and other platform maintenance. This truck is in excellent condition, very low mileage and was acquired through Federal Surplus using SPLOST funds for $1000.00. A new truck retails for $240,000.00.

Approximately 18 patrol cars, some fully equipped, with low mileage have been purchased for the Sheriff’s Office from $2,000 to $5,000 each. All fire stations and public works now have back-up generators, purchased for $100.00 each utilizing the federal surplus system.

The City of Franklin and The Town of Centralhatchee have both completed new Administration Buildings housing their Courts and City Halls.

Centralhatchee’s facility also includes a multi-purpose area for the community’s use, security system, LED signage, street lights, and a playground area is planned.

Centralhatchee has expanded its City Park, adding new playground equipment, a pavilion, signage, security cameras, lighting, fencing, resurfacing and improving their driveway and tennis courts, and added a Veterans’ Memorial site.

Projects in the works include turning the old City Hall into a public library and renovating the old fire station for a satellite sheriff’s office.

The City of Ephesus has added a new playground and tennis courts at Hoyt Rogers Park. They expanded and upgraded their water system with a new well, extending water lines on Billy Smith Road and making upgrades at other locations.  Additionally, they installed a billing system for their Water Dept. Work has been completed on the paving of Beverly Lane and bids have been taken for the preparation and paving of Parmer Street.

In addition to a new City Hall, the City of Franklin has remodeled the old City Hall into a dedicated Police Station. They’ve also added playground equipment for their City Park, purchased five police vehicles, a new trash truck, a street department vehicle, new maintenance equipment for trails and roads, ballistic vests and active shooter gear for police officers. They have resurfaced Mary Johnson Drive and Riverside Street along with various other street repairs.

SPLOST revenue has long been considered the fairest form of taxation since it is collected at the point of sale from every consumer who makes purchases in Heard County.

Without SPLOST funds to supplement project costs, most of the burden would fall solely on property owners/taxpayers whose taxes would have to increase substantially to offset the loss of these revenues.

SPLOST funds can only be used for capital improvements, additions, and upgrades, such as administrative facilities, roads and bridges, parks and recreation, basic infrastructure, and for public safety.

Governments must then find the funds elsewhere to cover the costs of maintenance, operation, and employee costs as these are not allowed to be paid from SPLOST dollars. It requires strategic planning to maintain the balance between what each can add and what they can maintain without adding undue burdens on the taxpayers.

“Our way of life that we have grown accustomed to would drastically change without SPLOST,” stated Lee Boone, Chairman, Heard County Commission.

(Article submitted by Chairman Lee Boone)

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