Forsyth County Commissioners will soon get public input on how to use different funding sources for certain county road projects.
At a work session this week, commissioners voted 5-0 to hold a public hearing at their next regular meeting on Thursday over whether the county should pay back the $100 million in general obligation transportation debt with SPLOST VIII – special purpose local option sales tax – funds.
Forsyth County voters approved a $200 million transportation in 2014 for the widening of Ga. 400 and other road projects. While $100 million in bonds were issued for the work on 400, the remainder has not.
If the proposal is approved, the other projects – which include work on Ronald Reagan Boulevard, Hwy. 369, McGinnis Ferry Road and Old Atlanta Road – would become SPLOST VIII projects. SPLOST VIII will be decided on the Nov. 6 election.
After the transportation bond passed, commissioners at the time pledged to spend the first $100 million in SPLOST VIII funds toward the bond debt.
County Manager Eric Johnson said the original thought was to not add to the bond portion of the county’s millage rate but “that millage never went up because we have additional transportation bonds.”
“I think it's up to the five of you to decide whether you’re comfortable enough presenting to the public that, since we never raised the millage – and in fact, we’re in the process of lowering that millage – that we simply put the $100 million worth of projects into the SPLOST project as named programs,” Johnson said.
County officials said the projects will go forward either way.
Dave Gruen, the county’s chief financial officer, said the proposal would give the county more flexibility for paying for the projects.
“If we can pay for roads directly … We pay for them. We don’t borrow at all,” Gruen said, later adding, “We’ll pay the cheapest way we can.”
District 1 Commissioner Pete Amos, who was in favor of a public hearing, said he wanted input before making a decision.
“I’d like to go out and speak with some of the people in the county about this,” he said.
During the meeting, commissioners also looked at some of the SPLOST VIII projects proposed by the city of Cumming, though no action was taken at the meeting.
SPLOST was first approved in Forsyth County in 1987 and has been continued six times since. SPLOST VIII is projected to bring in between $223 million to $273 million.