BOC calls for SPLOST referendum

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- County commissioners unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday night calling for a SPLOST referendum on March 15.

All five of the county's municipalities have approved an intergovernmental agreement with the county. If approved by voters, SPLOST 2011 is expected to generate $57.6 million over six years, with collections beginning July 1, the day after the current SPLOST sunsets.

At the request of municipal leaders, each municipality will maintain its own SPLOST account, and the county will disburse funds to the cities within 10 business days of receiving the money. The city of Covington will receive 12.96 percent of the SPLOST distribution, with Oxford receiving 2.14 percent, Porterdale 1.44 percent, Newborn .58 percent and Mansfield .44 percent.

County commissioners have said they will not bond any of the projects. Commissioner Nancy Schulz made her vote contingent on that commitment, along with the promise that all money would be collected before construction begins and that all projects would come back before the Board of Commissioners for approval before beginning.

Chairman Kathy Morgan said she hopes the public will consider the good the SPLOST as a whole can do for the county even if it doesn't support some of the projects. The majority of projects will have to be funded in some way, she said, and the county's general fund can't support the price tag. Officials have said the failure of the SPLOST might force a hike in property taxes.

"There's at least $53 million in good, solid projects," Morgan said.

The next step is the formation of a committee to promote the SPLOST and inform the public about projects. Elected officials and government employees are limited in how they can support SPLOST.

Elected officials can express a personal opinion but cannot speak on behalf of the local government. Employees are prohibited from activities supporting or opposing SPLOST at the taxpayers' expense or during work hours. In addition, public funds cannot be spent to support or oppose the SPLOST.