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Commissioners discuss funding for road projects
Forsyth County

During a short regular meeting, Forsyth County Commissioners approved the following items. All votes are 4-0 unless otherwise noted. Commissioners:

• Approved the rezoning of 3.5 acres on Aaron Sosebee Road from agriculture district A1 to single-family residential district Res-3 for four residential lots. 

• Awarded by a 4-1 vote, with District 5 Commissioner Laura Semanson opposed, a bid for the construction of the Pilgrim Mill Road widening project to Vertical Earth.

• OK’d the rezoning of 5.2 acres from single-family residential district R1 to agriculture district A1 for two lots on Spot Road. 

Ahead of their regular meeting on Thursday evening, Forsyth County Commissioners held a special called meeting to discuss using $100 million of SPLOST VIII — special purpose local option sales tax — funds to repay debt for a transportation bond and other SPLOST projects.

Responding to Chairman Todd Levent, County Attorney Ken Jarrard said the county had the authority to move the projects.

“I’m not going to get into the weeds of a sophisticated financial transaction, but if what you’re saying is named projects that otherwise would have been funded by the transportation bond, naming them as SPLOST projects and don’t borrow the other $100 million, I can tell you that we have the right to do that,” Jarrard said.

On Oct. 2, 2014, shortly before voters approved a $200 million transportation bond that November, commissioners at the time approved a resolution detailing plans to pay back $100 million with SPLOST funds.

Commissioners are not allowed to bind the votes of a future board, and Jarrard said on Thursday the resolution was “aspirational” and “non-binding.”

County CFO David Gruen said the change would save the county money in the end due to interest fees that would come with the bond.

“In my view, if we get as much flexibility in this as possible, that would be good,” Gruen said.

District 1 Commissioner Pete Amos questioned moving the projects, particularly if there were another economic downturn. 

“SPLOST is always a flip of the coin. We could have another depression, say one is on the way, and not collect anywhere near what we think we’re going to collect,” he said. “[For] the road projects, the bond is there … we’re not having to borrow it. Why do we want to bet on SPLOST?”

Jarrard said paying for the project through SPLOST instead of bonds meant the projects would be paid for with sales taxes instead of property taxes. 

Levent also pointed out the projects would only be funded by one source or the other and the county would not “double dip” from the funds. 

A public hearing for transferring the funds was held, but there were no public speakers. 

Transportation bond projects included the widening of Ga. 400, which is underway. Only $100 million of bond funds have been issued.

The projects proposed for moving from bond to SPLOST funding were the extension of Ronald Reagan Boulevard, Ga. 400 interchanges at Hwy. 369 McGinnis Ferry Road and widening projects for phases four and five of the widening of Old Atlanta Road, Pilgrim Mill Road, Post Road and McGinnis Ferry.

The SPLOST extension will be decided by local voters on Nov. 8. 

Commissioners also discussed other SPLOST VIII projects at the meeting and will have another discussion of the projects and agreement with the city of Cumming at their work session on Tuesday.