Cities seek larger share of SPLOST

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - BRYAN FAZIO bfazio@cov­news.com

The may­ors of New­ton County’s five mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties ne­go­ti­ated for a big­ger cut of po­ten­tial 2017 Spe­cial Pur­pose Lo­cal Op­tions Sales Tax (SPLOST) money dur­ing a work ses­sion with the New­ton County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers (BOC) Tues­day.

The may­ors, who met a week prior to the meet­ing, sat down with New­ton County Chair Keith El­lis, Dis­trict 2 Com­mis­sioner Lanier Sims, Dis­trict 3 Com­mis­sioner Nancy Schulz and Dis­trict 4 Com­mis­sioner J.C. Hen­der­son Tues­day, and orig­i­nally asked for a com­bined al­lo­ca­tion of 25 per­cent of the money raised from the SPLOST.

The SPLOST, which will go on the bal­lot for a March 17 vote, is an­tic­i­pated to bring in $900,000 a month, or $64,800,000 through­out the 72-month pe­riod.

In 2011, SPLOST money was dis­trib­uted to the five mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties based on pop­u­la­tion num­bers taken from the 2010 cen­sus. Un­der that for­mula, 17.86 per­cent of SPLOST funds were di­vided among the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and 82.14 per­cent to the

county. If the county were to fol­low the same pro­to­col of di­vid­ing the money for the 2017 SPLOST, they would use the same pop­u­la­tion num­bers and per­cent­age break­down to di­vide SPLOST al­lo­ca­tions.

May­ors Ar­line Chap­man, of Por­terdale, Greg Ell­wanger of New­born, Ron­nie John­ston of Cov­ing­ton, Jef­fer­son Ri­ley of Mans­field and Jerry Rose­berry of Ox­ford, in­stead, asked for the Lo­cal Op­tion Sales Tax (LOST) dis­tri­bu­tion, which would be a 75-25 per­cent split with the county and the cities. The LOST dis­tri­bu­tion was agreed to in 2012 and lasts through 2020.

“We have got­ten to­gether and we be­lieve the LOST dis­tri­bu­tion is a more eq­ui­table dis­tri­bu­tion for the en­tire com­mu­nity,” John­ston said. “We also be­lieve it’s ex­tremely im­por­tant that we come out of this with a united front so we have pretty good shot at this get­ting this passed.”

Chap­man said Por­terdale, in par­tic­u­lar, is an ex­am­ple of a city de­serv­ing more than it re­ceived in 2011.

“I think we have come a long way and for the county to look on that as hav­ing no value is a mis­take,” Chap­man said. “Es­sen­tially you want us to go on with the same num­bers as we did when it was a dump.

“I think just to ex­pect us to take what we’ve al­ways got­ten, even when we were a dump is show­ing a lack of the county’s value of what we’ve done in Por­terdale,” she said.

El­lis then asked for a re­cess and met with Hen­der­son, Schulz and Sims to come back with a num­ber for ne­go­ti­a­tions. The com­mis­sion­ers met two at a time with the chair to avoid form­ing a quo­rum, which would al­low a vote to be taken, vi­o­lat­ing Sun­shine Laws that pro­hibit elected and pub­lic of­fi­cials from meet­ing as a quo­rum be­hind closed doors.

Af­ter re­turn­ing from the re­cess, El­lis of­fered 21.28 per­cent to the cities, to be di­vided how they see fit. The cities then coun­tered with a split of 22 per­cent to the cities and 78 per­cent to the county.

No for­mal agree­ment was made, but the sides parted ways am­i­ca­bly, dis­cussing the idea of meet­ing once a quar­ter to keep lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tions open.

“We will have to find a way for the cities and county to work to­gether,” Sims said. “There’s a lot of pro­jects we can do to­gether to make our com­mu­nity bet­ter. Hope­fully, this is the start of mend­ing that re­la­tion­ship and hav­ing long, strong re­la­tion­ship.”

The next step in the SPLOST process is for an in­tergovern­men­tal agree­ment to be signed be­tween the five mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and the county and for the cities to com­pile a list of pro­jects they would like to see put on the bal­lot.

“This is a big up­hill bat­tle in this com­mu­nity right now to get this thing passed,” John­ston said.

Tasked with help­ing to get the 2017 SPLOST passed is the SPLOST com­mit­tee, which was named by the BOC dur­ing its pub­lic meet­ing Tues­day night.

Com­mit­tee mem­bers and the dis­trict they’ve been named from are: Chair - Ge­orge Clackum, Donna Ed­wards and Danny Stone; Dis­trict 1 - Jim Tu­dor, Bob Stafford, Betsy More­house and Leigh Anne Bar­rett; Dis­trict 2 - Kevin Nor­man, Veda Miller, Mar­cello Banes and Glenn Dowl­ing; Dis­trict 3 - James John­son, Ad­di­son Cook, LeAnne Long and June McDow­ell; Dis­trict 4 - Archie Shep­herd, Wil­lie James Smith, J.C. Hen- der­son and Regi­nald Reed; Dis­trict 5 - Ralph Staffins, Bax­ter Bouch­illon, Randy Vin­son and Hillary Edgar.

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