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Fayette Commission replies with stormwater answers

In an effort to promote passage of the Core Infrastructure Special Local Option Sales Tax in advance of early voting, the Fayette County Commission has released a list of questions and answers about the proposed tax. The questions and answers have been posted on the county’s website at

The two-year tax, which would fund $16.8 million in stormwater projects in the unincorporated county, would also provide $14 million in road and cart path maintenance for Peachtree City and $6.7 million for a variety of projects in Fayetteville.

If the tax is approved, the county commission has pledged to halt collection of a stormwater utility fee that is assessed to unincorporated residents for four years. However, if the sales tax fails at the ballot box, the county will stick to collecting the stormwater utility fees, county officials have said.

Neither Peachtree City nor Fayetteville have any such plans to lower stormwater fees charged to property owners in their municipalities.

Because the tax is a countywide initiative, all registered county voters have a say on the matter.

Proponents of the SPLOST contend it will cost less than an increase in property taxes, in part because shoppers from outside of the county will pay the sales tax. Opponents of the tax have said many of the stormwater projects are unnecessary at this time and that the county lacks appropriate planning to determine if the various projects’ scopes are realistic.

If the tax fails, Peachtree City in particular will have to find another way to fund the estimated $1.5 million in revenue needed to repair roads and cart paths each year. For the past eight years, the city has used funds from the 2004 Transportation SPLOST that was approved by voters countywide, but those monies were exhausted this summer.

City Councilman Eric Imker has calculated that the SPLOST would cost residents about $200 a year over the two-year period to fund projects for perhaps five years or more, while a millage rate increase to cover the cost would be about $81 a year on an ongoing basis.

Of the $16.8 million in planned spending on stormwater projects in the unincorporated county, $2.9 million is tabbed for replacement or repair of systems that could endanger property and/or life downstream, particularly with three dams that could fail if not repaired. Another $3.6 million is aimed at stormwater projects that “are in need of immediate attention, and another $7.95 million in projects are categorized as “needing replacement soon.”

Commissioners have bragged that the stormwater projects are all necessary and the proposal contains “no fluff.”

Fayetteville’s project list includes a number of different projects for public safety, stormwater, transportation and water and wastewater services. While that total list includes $9.2 million in projects, the city won’t be able to fund all of them with sales tax proceeds.

The county has approximately $28 million remaining in funds from the 2004 transportation sales tax, but county officials contend they cannot dip into that money to fund stormwater pipe underneath county roads nor repair and maintenance of stormwater structures adjacent to roads designed to prevent the roads from flooding. That’s because the sales tax money can only be used on specific projects listed in the county’s 2003 comprehensive transportation plan.

The county has also looked at creating a special tax district for the unincorporated county to accommodate the necessary funding. But doing so would require a property tax increase of 80 percent over two years to fund the entire $16 million in projects, according to county officials. However, it is possible the county could use a lower tax rate over a longer period of time to build up a substantial amount of money to fund the most important projects within several years while taking care of the lower priorities a number of years down the road.

The county’s stormwater utility fee, instituted for the first time earlier this year on all properties in unincorporated Fayette County, was projected to net $643,000 in fees, though through June 30 only $475,000 has been collected. Those who pay late will face a penalty.

The sales tax, if approved by voters, will get an expected boost from revenue on activity at Pinewood Atlanta Studios in west Fayetteville, which is projected to open in January. Though welcoming a new company of this magnitude with a brand-new sales tax might not be the best idea in some residents’ eyes, the county contends it needs to address stormwater infrastructure problems so it can continue to attract economic development to Fayette County.

The use of a SPLOST for unincorporated stormwater projects in the county stemmed from three town hall meetings the commission conducted after a number of residents decried the implementation of the new stormwater fee late last year. A number of unincorporated county residents wanted city residents to pay the stormwater tax also, since city residents use county roads, but county officials said that was impossible because the county was not proposing to make any stormwater improvements in any of the cities, which have their own stormwater management programs and associated fees already.

The county’s stormwater fee structure is set up so property owners pay for the estimated amount of impervious surfaces on their lot, including not just the home but also a garage, driveway, sidewalks, patios and other improvements. For each 1,000 square feet of impervious surface, the property owner will pay $4.20 a year.

For some residents the fee will top out in the neighborhood of $20, while others will pay more depending on the layout and improvements to their lot. Meanwhile, businesses, churches and schools in the county stand to pay significantly more, particularly if they have large parking lots and other large areas of impervious surface that create stormwater runoff.



Help me understand this: Under the former proposal, I make a tax-deductible contribution to my church, so that it can pay this parking lot fee (tax) which is not deductible Isn't this the proverbial "robbing Peter to pay Paul"? Would it help if we ripped out the asphalt and put down gravel? The churches in this community contribute so much to the welfare of our neighbors, and make us a better community overall--Who will take up the slack if the Church has less money to help our friends in need? More to come; RE:why I'm also against the SPLOST.

I love this article, because I can clearly see the rationale against supporting this SPLOST.

1. <strong>The tax will continue as the stormwater fee.</strong> So you'll pay two years in additional sales taxes and not pay the stormwater fee in the unincorporated county for four years. After you've forgotten about it, in year five, the stormwater utility fees will come back. If we're going to have to keep paying for it anyway, go ahead and just charge the stormwater fee in the county like what was originally proposed.

2. <strong>Attempting to pay cash for infrastructure, except for Fayetteviile, creates inequities.</strong> The article outlines the fact that Fayetteville's $9.2 million in projects won't be able to be covered by the sales tax revenues, but PTC and the County's will. So, it's OK for the largest jurisdictions to pay cash for their infrastructure needs, but Fayetteville can finance theirs? Two issues there - there is an inequity to Fayetteville voters and those shopping at the Pavillion, and paying cash for long term assets and maintenance is not fair to future residents who will receive the benefits of the improvements without funding them. There's a reason you have a bond rating; it's so you can get bonds when you need them. Now is the time to do that, Fayette County and PTC.

3. <strong>You'll pay more now, and pay more later</strong>. PTC Councilman Eric Imker is paraphrased as saying it will cost residents $200 a year in sales taxes over the two year period versus $81 a year ongoing for a millage rate increase. Economic times are still tough, Eric. The value of money over time, simply, says I can put the $119 a year savings I would get from NOT having to pay the sales tax into an account and have that to pay the increased taxes for years to come. And, if I'm an unincorporated county tax payer, I'll still have to pay the stormwater fee, so why pay more money in two years to fund other municipal projects?

4. <strong>There is an assertion, but no substantial proof, that sales taxes are better, since outsiders will pay them.</strong> The well developed shopping areas directly outside the county (Newnan/Sharpsburg, Camp Creek Marketplace) indicate to me that residents of Coweta and Fulton Counties have places to go. Perhaps we should call this the Riverdale tax? I would like to see (but can guarantee no one will provide) specific, measurable statistics on the amount of sales tax Fayette County collects from purchasers outside its borders and from those who are not property owners in the County. So, Fayette County homeowners will get stuck with a larger bill via Chinese Water Torture.

Do the repairs need to be made? YES. Do we need to bail out the local jurisdictions who failed to plan for simple maintenance of existing assets? NO.

To me, this is a simple decision, which is why I do not support the SPLOST. Come back to us when you've got a plan that makes sense and funds the fixes long term, like it always should have been.

The commissioners held three standing room only meetings back in February and March. They asked for and were given suggestions regarding alternatives to a stormwater tax. On the very first night, the first thing out of Steve Brown's mouth was his idea to implement a SPLOST. They had an opportunity to revise the stormwater tax, but chose not to do so. Apparently they function just like other politicians, pretending to listen to their constituents but doing exactly what they want and spending our money like a bunch of drunken sailors.

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