Pike County Times
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Pike County Considering a SPLOST for Roads
By Editor Becky Watts

ZEBULON - County Manager John Hanson discussed the possibility of a SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) for 2016 in the September 29, 2015 County Commission meeting. He suggested calling it for a referendum for voters to vote on and that it be for roads only.

[Note from the Editor: This SPLOST was approved and it is on the March 1, 2016 ballot as a yes or no vote item. The cities have joined in with this project. Scroll to the bottom of this article to read about the referendum through detailed links.]

The county has contacted the cities and are preparing for a meeting to discuss participation and how much money would be allotted to each participating entity. The deadline for pulling this all together is November 30th so it can be on the March 30th election ballot. That will be the Presidential Preference scheduled election.

If all of the cities are involved, this can be a six year SPLOST. Hanson suggested that a division of funds be based on the division of 2012 LOST (Local Option Sales Tax) funds that is in effect right now. He said that this would be a simple way to divide everything up--especially if everyone does roads.

Hanson said that roads is our number one issue here in Pike County, and that we have to cover a lot of basic needs. He said that we are trying to be proactive, but we are also playing catch up.

County Manager John Hanson advised that this 2016 SPLOST could be as much as a $5.8 million project based on the current SPLOST revenue for the past 12 months. County Manager John Hanson advised that the county is looking at all of the options on this. County Attorney Rob Morton advised that information will be available to commissioners if they wanted to do a bond referendum to pay for the project up front rather than waiting for the money to come in a little at a time as well.

The meeting on this SPLOST will be held on October 14th at 1 p.m. (There will be a 9 a.m. regular Commission meeting that day too.) The public is invited to attend.

The March 15, 2011 SPLOST referendum was a penny tax toward a $5.4 million project that upgraded and repaired our Courthouse as well as designating money to repair Pike County's roads and bridges. McKinley Road is being paved with equipment that was bought from 2011 SPLOST funds. Click here to read about McKinley Road and click here to read about the SPLOST improvements for the Courthouse and click here for before and after pictures of the Pike County Courthouse.

Discussion of the SPLOST Referendum from the October 14, 2015 Board of Commission Meeting

The currrent SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) expires on June 30, 2016. The Courthouse renovation has completed and the debt was paid off first, and the remainder of the 2011 SPLOST is being used on our roads right now. Public Works is working on patching projects now and have addressed some needs already.

SPLOST is a 1 cent sales tax and is not to be confused with LMIG (Local Maintenance Improvement Grant) which is funded by State Motor Fuel Tax and used to improve roads across the state. Pike County must match all LMIG funds with 30% of the total amount. CM Hanson showed commissioners and those in the meeting today how he proposes to use both the LMIG and SPLOST together to get the most bang for our buck here in Pike County.

Background on our roads. Williamson-Zebulon Road is the most heavily traveled road in the county and we are working on it now with LMIG. Roberts Quarters, Patton, New Hope Roads all have around 1,000 to 1,200 cars per day according to 2013 DOT estimates. Concord Road is pretty decent road right now but it is about a 900 car a day road and we don’t want to wait until it is falling apart to address issues. McKinley Road is being redone with 2011 SPLOST funds. Kings Bridge Road has about 1,970 cars a day on the 2013 estimate. Those who drive to Newnan and Peachtree City from Pike, Upson, and Lamar use this route. Tanyard, Shortcut, Howell, and Strickland Road all have issues that need to be addressed so the county is also taking care of our unpaved roads. There will be some patchwork done with SPLOST funds in order to get roads ready to be resurfaced with LMIG funds.

The current SPLOST will end on June 31, 2016. July 1, 2016 would begin this SPLOST if voters give the ok for a SPLOST based on roads during the March Presidential Preference election. $5.8 million is the 6 year SPLOST estimate and this would include the cities with the money being split between the cities and county according to the last LOST numbers. CM Hanson has based this number of $5.8 million on a little less than the amount that the county has brought in during the current SPLOST over the past 12 to 18 months. If there is growth in the economy, there is a real chance that the county can bring in more than $5.8 million, and all of that money will have to be spent on roads in our county. *Please note: This is not an additional tax over what we are paying now. The current SPLOST will end and a new one can be put into place if the voters choose to do this, and it will not cost us anything other than the 1 cent per dollar that we are already paying.

If the SPLOST passes, CM Hanson envisions the following for 2016: Roberts Quarters Road ($445,632.75) and Patton Road ($334,462) are at the top of the SPLOST list. $99,225 will be allocated for an equipment purchase and $135,000 will be toward unpaved repairs and surface treatments. CM Hanson said that Director Todd Goolsby and his staff has worked on the numbers on our roads and have been accurate on our estimates so he is confident that we can work within the numbers that are in this presentation. Hanson said that there are big dollar roads coupled with smaller roads based on numbers that we are expecting to come in. He said that LMIG dollars come in annually so we are going to work with the two lists together so we can do more than one road at once. Our dollars will go further if we do more than one road at a time so this makes sense. We are already committing about $300,000 out of our budget each year to match with the Georgia DOT will be allocating to us each year so there won't be any big changes with our taxes on this either. New Hope Road is our recommended 2016 LMIG road along with Howell and Jonathan’s Roost Road. Hanson said that we are looking to match GA DOT each year with about $300,000 from our budget to the state’s LMIG dollars that will come to about $450,000 starting next year. He said that we are doing our work right on these roads by patching what needs to be patched and going down to the base and building it back up where that is needed too.

Hanson explained how LMIG is going to be matched with from SPLOST and said that we can do what is on this list by using money wisely and not ask for any more money than we are already doing. There won’t need to be any budgetary changes to do any of this. He also pointed out that if the county gets a bond on 75% of the money that we are expecting to come in, we can save money by getting work done on more than one road in the county at one time and save against any potential costs of construction going up as opposed to doing a little at a time as the money comes in.

If we pay as we go, we get $5.8 with the county getting $4.3 million over the next 6 years. If we decide to do a debt obligation, we can issue bonds or a straight debt amortization where we make monthly payments so we can start immediately, we could borrow up to $4,350,000 as we need it and pay it back as we go. We could do all of the Roads for Roberts Quarters through Eppinger Bridge Road and possibly do several roads in one summer in one shot. He asked what’s it going to cost us versus not borrowing? What will cost of construction cost if we wait? It will cost us 14 ½ to 17% higher at the end of 6 years if costs go up a little each year as they are prone to do. If we bid together, it will be less if we do 12 roads. *Please note this side note: The asphalt plant in Griffin has been closed for the past 2 years so we have been going a much longer distance to get our asphalt too.

Hanson told commissioners that 2 3/4 to 3 1/4% on borrowing equals about $370,000 to $450,000 in interest which would be less than what we would pay if construction costs go up each year as they have done traditionally. He also said that we could be wise with our funds and come out cheaper and have more money to do roads. He reiterated that the final estimate for this SPLOST is with no growth AND only borrowing 75% of what we are looking to gain overall from SPLOST. Questions that closed out his presentation were: Do we want to write the referendum with or without a debt obligation? Do the cities want to participate in the SPLOST and do they want to participate in a bond referendum? If the cities participate in the bond referendum, the cities will be responsible for their own debt. The cities met with the County Manager in a 1 p.m. meeting today in order to discuss the possibility of being a part of the 2016 SPLOST.

Click here to read the 2016 SPLOST Referendum Proposal. Click here to read more about the 2016 Proposed SPLOST Referendum.