Here comes the S-SPLOST
Added sales tax would replace stormwater fees except in PTC and F’ville
Call it an “S-SPLOST.” And call it “local.” Several Fayette County commissioners — including Chairman Steve Brown — want to put a stormwater sales tax on the ballot this November.
This move toward a Fayette-only dedicated penny tax comes less than a year after Brown led a public campaign to defeat a penny sales tax increase for transportation projects that would apply to the entire Atlanta metro area.
The proposed S-SPLOST is intended to raise money to replace aging culverts and drain pipes that run along and under county roads.
The recent conversation over the stormwater utility that affects Fayette County residents other than those living in Fayetteville and Peachtree City has been touted by Fayette County commissioners as one that required more public input.
The consensus solution arrived at by commissioners at the April 5 retreat would implement a number of stormwater credits and have a November vote for a two-year SPLOST (1 percent sales tax) that would raise enough money to fund needed capital improvements.
There were a total of five potential options on the table at the retreat. But after the matter was discussed, commissioners reached a consensus on an approach that combined two of the five options.
If adopted later this month, one of the options would put a two-year SPLOST on the November ballot that is expected to raise $41.25 million. A revenue breakdown showed the two-year period would generate $20.4 million for unincorporated Fayette, $12.9 million for Peachtree City, $5.4 million for Fayetteville, $2.3 million for Tyrone and $198,000 for Brooks.
Both Fayetteville and Peachtree City already have a stormwater utility tax imposed on property owners so the amounts raised for those cities would be used for purposes that would need to be decided by the respective city councils. The balance of the revenue would by used for stormwater-related projects since neither Tyrone nor Brooks have a stormwater tax.
The second option to be combined with the SPLOST would be to provide a number of credits that could offset a part of the stormwater bill. Those credits are expected to include provisions such as a farm pond credit and credits for not impacting stormwater drainage and another for the property’s acreage. Stormwater operations such as staff salaries would also be transferred from the utility’s budget to the general fund.
All considered, if the SPLOST passes in November the revenues collected will provide sufficient funds to take care of the capital projects — meaning replacing culverts and fixing roads — while reducing the stormwater utility by 90 percent for the next four years, said County Administrator Steve Rapson.
So how will all this work if approved by the commission in the coming weeks? Rapson said a notice will be sent in May saying the current stormwater utility will remain in place for the time being and that those who have not paid the past stormwater bill will be issued a 10 percent penalty if it is not paid. The letter will also notify taxpayers that the county is exploring the SPLOST. The new stormwater bill will be sent out in June.
If the SPLOST is successful it would eliminate much of the cost associated with the current billing level. Those costs to maintain the system once capital projects are completed will be significantly reduced and would provide for a much smaller stormwater bill.
The question remains as to whether a SPLOST will pass in November. Commissioners concerned with having voters properly notified suggested developing a newsletter mailer to explain the SPLOST along with broadcasts on public access television, by email and any additional methods that can be devised.
And if the SPLOST fails commissioners are likely to resort to yet another option, one that would raise the capital through a revenue bond. The borrowed money would be repaid by collecting stormwater fees.
Other options that did not pass muster included eliminating the stormwater utility and increasing property taxes while another would have eliminated the calculation for impervious surface and replacing it with an urban/rural billing structure.