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Forsyth County Commissioners begin planning for SPLOST VIII

Forsyth County is taking the first steps to continue a program to fund certain projects.

Forsyth County Commissioners held a discussion on the next special 1-cent sales tax to fund county projects, SPLOST VIII, at a work session on Tuesday. County Manager Eric Johnson said a six-year SPLOST could generate $274 million for projects.

He said the county is in good shape to vote on SPLOST VIII in the November 2018 midterm election, but the timeline could have other concerns. 

“We’ve actually already missed one deadline, which is we’re less than two years out from the expiration of SPLOST VII,” Johnson said.

 “I think [the Association of  County Commissioners of Georgia] recommend that if you have a referendum in Georgia to extend an existing sales tax in Georgia that you have it in time that if it is unsuccessful, there’s a 12-month clock that needs to expire before you have another referendum.”

Johnson said that means if the initial referendum is not successful, there would be a lapse between the collection of SPLOST VII and SPLOST VIII. 

Forsyth will need to work out percentages with the city of Cumming, where collections also happen. For SPLOST VII, the city received about 12.5 percent of the funds.

Collections for SPLOST VII began on July 1, 2013, and will continue until June 30, 2019. A large part of SPLOST VII was used for the construction of the new Forsyth County Courthouse and Forsyth County Jail, which opened in 2014.

Johnson said current requests by various county departments total $429 million without requests from county courts, the county health department or the city of Cumming.

“This far exceeds any amount of money we are going to have available,” he said. 

In February, Chief Financial Officer Dave Gruen gave a few potential collection figures; $225 million in a slow economy, $254 million in an average economy with 3 percent growth and $273 million in a good economy with 4 percent annual growth.

With those figures, Johnson said the county should also consider inflation costs for the projects.

“We need to get current costs,” Johnson said, “then we need to find a methodology to price those into the future, which we haven’t done yet.” 

He also urged commissioners to spread the projects out across the county. 

“When we’re done, we can’t have all the projects in the same area,” he said. “[Then] we’ve given most of the voters the excuse to vote against it because it’s all going to one place.”

The first $100 million collected will go to county road bonds, including one issued for the widening of Ga. 400. Commissioners said the next SPLOST would also take on other transportation issues.

Commissioners will hold a special meeting at 10 a.m. Nov. 13.